Gerry Kelly Column
Kelly, Gerry, The People (London, England)
Joy for McCoy as he races off with
top sports award
As the end of the year approaches, it's time to hand out the gongs. And I must admit I'm a bit of a sucker for all these awards programmes.
Tonight, for example, I'll be glued to the box to see who the Sports Personality of the Year will be (my money's on Greg Rusedski by the way).
Here in Ireland we have many top sportsmen and women who don't always get the plaudits they deserve, so I was delighted to see the Northern Ireland version of tonight's big event given prime television on Tuesday evening.
For such a small province - just under 1.5 million - we do have some genuine stars.
Top of our tree is Mary Peters and it was particularly pleasing to see her installed into the Hall of Fame.
But the climax of the evening involved four guys - Jeremy Davidson, Tony Dobbin, Darren Clarke and Tony McCoy - world beaters in their own sports and who would be high on anyone's list of sporting achievers.
Sadly for Ryder Cup star Clarke, it was a case of just being off the pace yet again. But what a wonderful year the Portrush golfer has given us all.
He had that thrilling shoot-out with Ian Woosnam in the PGA tournament and let's not forget the pride we all felt when he set out on the last day of the British Open at Troon as the tournament leader.
Tony Dobbin's name will always be linked with the ill-fated Grand National when, three days after the planned date, he rode Lord Gyllene to victory.
Then there's the prodigious Davidson who, at just 22, became a rugby icon as he rose - literally - above the South African world champions in the Lions jersey during the summer.
But in the end it was McCoy, the 22-year-old jockey from Moneyglass, who pipped his rivals on the line.
A modest young man with more than 500 wins in the last three years, he continues to break records as he pursues a third successive National Hunt Jockey of the Year title.
As you can see I'm in exactly the right mood for a couple of nostalgic hours with Des Lynam and Co tonight.
But they won't get a more deserving winner than the one we hailed in Northern Ireland this week.
AFTER all, it is the season to be merry, and one of the great traditions of Christmas has been revived with gusto in Belfast - the pantomime!
And its success is due in no small measure to one man - my good friend John Linehan, alias May McFettridge.
His (or her) performances are outstanding. A former car mechanic, John "invented" May 10 years ago and, as the sharp- tongued Belfast woman, he has become one of the highest-paid entertainers on the Irish scene today.
For five years now he has played the Dame in the Grand Opera House pantomimes.
And even though this year he is supported by zany Su Pollard and a host of brilliant special effects in Jack And The Beanstalk, it's May McFettridge they really come to see.
By the time the run ends in January, more than 75,000 people will have seen the show.
So if there are any seats left, can I strongly recommend that you take the kids along to enjoy the pure fun and sense of fantasy that only panto - and May - can provide.
REGULAR travellers on the main Belfast to Dublin road will be delighted with the Northern Ireland Office decision to dismantle the border checkpoint at Cloghogue just outside Newry.
It's been redundant for some time but remains an eyesore.
But what can you make of the permanent Army/Gardai checkpoint three miles away on the Republic side of the border? …