There was double success for the Ballymena and Antrim areas at Sunday night’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards.
Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill Michael O’Neill completed a memorable 2015 by being crowned Coach of the Year at the glittering event, held at Belfast’s SSE Arena.
O’Neill guided Northern Ireland to a first-ever European Championship – 30 years on from the nation’s last appearance in a major finals.
The team won six and lost one of their 10 qualifying games to top their group, and will now play Poland, Ukraine and World champions Germany at next summer’s Euro finals in France.
O’Neill was presented with his award by golf star Graeme McDowell and Olympic gold medal winner Denise Lewis.
The award success came 24 hours after O’Neill was named RTÉ Sport Manager of the Year.
“To be here on this stage as the manager of my country and to be going to France is very special for me,” O’Neill told the 7,500-strong crowd at the Belfast venue.
“I would like to congratulate all the other nominees. There are some fantastic coaches here in this room, so it is very humbling to get the award.”
It would have been easier for me to walk away and the Association to go for someone else but we stuck together and ultimately we are where we are today.
“You’re not a coach at all without your players. We may not have the greatest players in the world but we have great players to work with and they are proud to represent Northern Ireland.
It was a proud night for Northern Ireland as former champion jump jockey AP McCoy, from Moneyglass, was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
The 20-times champion, who retired in April, dominated the National Hunt scene, winning virtually every major prize during his career, including the Grand National, two Gold Cups, three Champion Hurdles and the Champion Chase.
“Being from Northern Ireland, a place that has produced so many talented and successful sportspeople, it makes tonight even more special.
“Racing is a wonderful sport. I was very lucky to live my life as a jockey through it and for that I will be forever grateful.
“To any young people watching the show or who are here this evening, all I can say is, make the sacrifices, because it’s worth it,” concluded McCoy.
Tennis player Andy Murray won the main BBC Sports Personality of the Year for the second time.