THE best of the borough’s sporting talent was celebrated at Thursday night’s Mid and East Antrim Borough Council Sports Awards.
The fifth annual glittering awards ceremony took place at Larne Leisure Centre where former Irish League footballer turned broadcaster Liam Beckett MBE performed the duties of MC.
Nominees from the sporting world, including coaches, teams and individuals, all battled it out in nine categories to clinch the trophies.
Northern Ireland Boccia Paralympian Claire Taggart was crowned Sportsperson of the Year and Sportsperson with a Disability, while Northern Ireland and Rangers hero Gareth McAuley was inducted into the Sporting Hall of Fame.
Larne native McAuley, who won 80 international caps during his sporting lifetime, began his career in the Irish League with Crusaders and spent his last season at Rangers in 2018-19.
Having made his debut in June 2005, McAuley’s finest moment in a Northern Ireland shirt came when he scored the first goal in a stunning 2-0 win over Ukraine at the Euro 2016 finals in France.
The full list of award winners is as follows:
Junior Sportsperson of the Year – Joshua Hill – Golf
School Sporting Performance – Ballymena Academy Cross Country Team
Sportsperson with a Disability – Claire Taggart – Boccia
Coach of the Year – Gary Marshall – Equestrian
Services to Sport – Ronnie McKeegan – Cycling
Sportsperson of the Year – Claire Taggart – Boccia
Team of the Year – Ballymena United FC
Community Participation Award – Ballymena Saturday Morning League
Hall of Fame – Gareth McAuley
This year two £500 bursaries from Balon Sportswear were also awarded to Anna O’Kane (GAA) and Niall Hynds (Rugby & GAA).
Mayor Cllr Maureen Morrow said: “I want to congratulate all the winners and finalists in the fifth annual Mid and East Antrim Sports Awards.
“The awards are a fantastic opportunity for Council to acknowledge and congratulate the success of our talented athletes, coaches and volunteers who deserve the recognition for all their hard work and ongoing dedication. I would also like to thank all of our sponsors who make this event possible.
“These winners will now act as role models for the future generations in our borough to get involved in many sports and who knows, may even become champions themselves.
“Building healthier communities is a key priority for Council and what better way to show off the calibre of talent we have here than by celebrating our unsung sporting heroes with these awards.
“Our GetMEActive leisure campaign continues to encourage more people into sport and we can’t wait to see the results and our future sporting stars breaking boundaries.”
The award sponsors were McCadden, Ryobi Aluminium, Pollock Lifts, Wilsons of Rathkenny, Larne Credit Union, Balon Sportswear, Sign Time and Stirling Trophies.