Donegal Sports Star Award Winners Congratulated

The 12 winners of the 2020 Donegal Sports Star Award have been recipients of congratulations from across the County and further afield. Awards Chairperson Grace Boyle said their successes deserved recognition adding that the decision to go ahead with the first ever Virtual Show was something that had been widely welcomed and the positive reaction afterwards was something that has filled the committee with great pride in what has been a very difficult time for everyone in Donegal and across the Country.

“It really was great to be able to do the Awards after 2020 being such a challenging year. Great credit first has to go to all the sports men and women who went out and represented their teams and clubs last year when competitions got started in the early summer. They were training and playing in a totally different way to what they had been used to doing because of the Covid restrictions and all the fears that there were with the virus. Some of them were travelling long distances on their own to get to games and there was all the isolation of individual training programmes when the lockdown had been in place. All that was an achievement in itself and then we had some who went onto have success and we really wanted to acknowledge all that. Most of the competitions were behind closed doors but thanks to all the media outlets we were able to watch games and read the reports in the local newspapers. Sport coming back was such a positive for the mental health of everyone who follow the team games and individual events” Ms Boyle said.

The Chairperson expressed a special thanks to 13 of the County’s biggest names in sport who took the time out to feature in the introduction to the show with special sporting messages. The opening clip was from former Donegal All-Ireland winning manager Jim McGuinness and he was followed by Donegal GAA Ladies Senior footballer Karen Guthrie, global endurance athlete Jason Black, open water swimmer Anne Marie Ward, triple European 800m medalist Mark English, former Irish rugby international Nora Stapleton, Republic of Ireland and Everton player Seamus Coleman, World and Olympic rower Sinead Jennings, former Republic of Ireland and Glasgow Celtic goalkeeper Packie Bonner, three-time badminton Olympian Chloe Magee, Donegal GAA captain Michael Murphy, Republic of Ireland and FC Köln striker Amber Barrett and another former Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given who had the honour of introducing the 2020 Awards.

“It was fantastic work by our committee member Alma Kavanagh who pulled that together with all those stars. I want to thank each and everyone of them for taking the time to be part of last night’s show and it really added to the whole occasion. And having Trudy O’Donnell and Jason Friel making such beautiful music with The Homes of Donegal made it extra special along with the footage of the fantastic scenery around the County” Ms Boyle. It was also a night to remember loved ones who passed away in the past year. Among those remembered were Mickey McFadden and Paul Blaney, two founding members of the Donegal Sports Star Awards in 1976 who passed away earlier this month.

The death of Hugo Duggan in December was also marked with a special tribute during the show. “We were all saddened with the deaths of Mickey McFadden, Paul Blaney and Hugo Duggan who all had very strong links to the Donegal Sports Star Awards. Mickey and Paul were in the group that had the vision and courage to start the awards in 1976. Hugo was a great athlete and won the Overall Award in 1988 and got the Hall of Fame in 2009. To everyone who has lost loved ones over the last year our thoughts are with you as we bring the 2020 awards event to a close” Ms Boyle said.

Producing a Virtual Sports Star Awards Show was a totally new venture for the committee and with the expert technical back-up and support of Shane McGillian from AVC Audio and Visual Company the finished product was delivered and very much enjoyed by the viewers on Friday evening. “This was a very big operation for us but it has been a journey of learning over the past couple of months and you know what we’re all delighted that the decision to go ahead with awards was taken in September” Ms Boyle.

As always the role of Donegal County Council is absolutely crucial to the success of the Awards and it was no different for the 2020 ceremony. “In these challenging times Donegal County Council continues to see even more the huge benefits of the awards and I want to thank Chief Executive John McLaughlin and his staff who were there to help us every step of the way to deliver a really good presentation that was thoroughly enjoyed by the sporting public on Friday night. The Cathaoirleach Cllr Rena Donaghey, was there to support us as well from the time we announced that the 2020 Awards were going ahead and we’re grateful for that” Ms Boyle said.

The first winners to be honoured virtually in the 45-year history of the Donegal Sports Star Awards is something that the Chairperson says is hugely significant.

“For those winning awards it must have been some feeling to be honoured in a new virtual event and that makes them 12 history makers. The reaction afterwards for all of the 12 winners right across the media and in their own communities was something they will surely never forget” Ms Boyle said.

A recording of the 2020 Awards can be viewed on the Donegal Sports Star Awards Youtube Channel.

For further information on the Donegal Sports Star Awards go to donegalsportsstarawards.ie or visit Facebook donegalsports.starawards and Twitter @DLsportstars.