45 years on, Donegal Sports Star Awards prepare to go virtual

Annual awards take place this Friday night

Sports Star Awards

The 1976 winners at a 40th anniversary Awards function in January 2016 in the Mount Errigal Hotel

The first ever Donegal Sports Star Virtual Show will take place on Friday evening as the committee marks the 45th anniversary of the first awards which were held on November 26 1976 in the Milford Inn.

The remarkable journey will continue when the committee marks another milestone celebrating its 45th anniversary.

Over 1,100 individuals and teams have been honoured as the awards function has grown into the biggest sporting social event in Donegal. But, for the first time ever due to Covid-19, it will be a virtual show when the winners will be announced on Friday evening. It will be streamed live from 7.30pm via the Donegal Sports Star Awards Facebook Page.  

The founding committee set high standards from the start with Ronnie Delaney the Irish Olympic legend being the first special guest at the inaugural Awards 45 years ago.

MAIN PIC: The 1976 winners at a 40th anniversary Awards function in January 2016 in the Mount Errigal Hotel.

Front row left to right - Tommy Burns (Cycling), John McCrossan (Clay Pigeon Shooting), Marie Kelly (Handball), Maeve Kyle (Special Guest), Anne McCafferty (Tennis), Michael Jamieson (Rugby), Robert Ward (Motorsport).
Back row - Danny McDaid (Athletics), Uel Blair (Badminton), John Gillespie (Boxing), Andy Curran (GAA), Richard Eaton for his dad Tom Eaton (Hall of Fame), Frank Harrigan (Hurling), Pat Bonner (Snooker) and Damien O’Doherty for his uncle James O’Doherty (Soccer). Missing from the photo were Fr. Brendan McBride (Golf), Ed Moore (Hockey), Margaret Gallagher (Handball) and Veronica McAteer (Camogie).

November 24, 1978 is a date that Liam Doherty has never forgotten. It was the night that the Lifford man was named the first Overall Donegal Sports Star Award winner at only the third ever staging of the function, which was held in the Milford Inn. It was appropriate also that a fellow athlete Noel Carroll the former Irish international Olympic runner was the special guest marking that historic presentation. The awards which had started in 1976 did not include an “Overall Winner’ category in the first two years of the event. 

When the first Donegal Sports Star Awards were held in the Milford Inn there were no outlandish predictions made about it being an event that would have the capacity to pass significant milestones like marking 21 years in existence or celebrating 30th or 40th anniversaries. 

Like any organisation it has experienced its ups and downs over the years but there’s no arguing with the fact that over the last decade the annual awards night has enjoyed a purple patch with average attendances of 600 at the function. 

And so now 45 years on the Donegal Sports Star Awards committee is celebrating another landmark with its Sapphire Anniversary. In 1976 there were just over 40 nominees and 17 winners but those figures have seen a very steep rise in recent years. However, this year due to Covid-19 and a restricted sporting year the awards ceremony is understandably shorter but nonetheless there are still plenty of successes that the committee is delighted to be able to recognise on Friday evening.  

While the overall award accolade is the pinnacle of a sports person’s achievement in Donegal, each and every winner of a category since 1976 deserves special recognition on this 45th anniversary of the awards. The majority of awards go to individuals and teams who are in active competition but two honours that create great interest each year are the Hall of Fame and Appreciation Awards. 

The winner of the first Hall of Fame Award in 1976 was hockey stalwart Tom Eaton from Raphoe. Tom’s son Richard, who sadly passed away in September, won the Hockey Award in 1985. And the following year the inaugural Appreciation honour went to a fellow Raphoe man Billy McConnell for his services to the same sport. Fast forward 45 years and 2020 Hall of Fame inductee is Finn Harps legend Patsy McGowan.  

If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Donegal Live editorial team any time. To contact Donegal Democrat and Donegal People's Press, email editorial@donegaldemocrat.ie To contact Donegal Post, email editor@donegalpost.com To contact Inish Times, email editor@inishtimes.com.

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