Denise the big winner at 19th Herald Sports Awards
By Gareth Mckeown
OVER 260 people packed out the Killyhevlin Hotel on Friday night for the 19th annual Fermanagh Herald Sports Awards. The biggest and the best night in the sporting calendar was once again a resounding success, with Knocks runner Denise Toner taking home the top prize.
The Herald awards sponsored by Belleek Living recognised the best and brightest sporting talent in the county, with 44 nominees across a range of sports from athletics through to football, rugby, GAA and rallying.
Hosted by Ulster Television personality Frank Mitchell the theme for the night was ‘a night at the dogs’, with everyone in attendance receiving a race card and some lucky punters taking home a cash prize from the nailbiting action.
The big winner on the night was Denise Toner, who was recognised for her stellar achievements in 2015.
The cheer which greeted the announcement of Denise Toner as Fermanagh Herald Sports Person of the year for 2015 told you all you needed to know about just how popular a choice the runner was for the accolade.
We don’t have too many athletes operating at the top level in the world, but the Knocks athlete proved that she is certainly one picking up gold in the 800m and 1,500m in the National Masters Championships in Athlone, before capturing European gold in the 800m in 35-40 category in Torun, Poland. If that wasn’t enough she then claimed a spectacular silver as Ireland recorded an 800m one-two in the World Masters championships at Lyon in France.
“I can’t believe it. I’m absolutely gobsmacked and delighted, I really am,” said Toner.” I never really thought too much about it at the time, but I had a brilliant year last year. Please God I stay healthy and it continues into this year as well.”
Other big winners on the night included Fermanagh double Olympian and rowing star Iain Kennedy who was inducted into the Hall of Fame and Derrygonnelly Harps GFC, who were recognised for their Senior Championship and cup double achievements with the senior team of the year award. It was a special award for the club who tragically lost stalwart Damian McGovern ahead of the county final.
In the field of International excellence the ‘Ballinamallard Bullet’ Josh Elliott was acknowledged for a superb season in which he became the British 1000 Superstock Champion.
Perhaps the biggest cheer of the night came from an elated Enniskillen Collegiate table, when the successful rugby team was announced as the school team of the year in a hotly contested category. The accolade was recognition for the school’s sixth Ulster Schools rugby title in nine years.
The Youth Sports Personality of the Year went to Enniskillen runner Conan McCaughey, while Enniskillen Girls Under 18 RFC took home the youth team award. Also recognised were the Lakeland Special Olympic Club, the winners of the Special Achievement Award and Pete McGrath, who was rewarded for guiding Fermanagh to National League promotion and to the All-Ireland Quarter Finals with Coach of the Year.
For over 25 years of service to Enniskillen Tennis Club John Griffin was recognised with a Contribution to Sport Award.