Sports fans, clubs, schools, governing and sports bodies are being urged to nominate their top sporting stars for 2013 with the launch of the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards.

Linwoods, title sponsor of the awards programme honours Northern Ireland’s top sporting achievers in both the amateur and professional arenas and the gala ceremony which attracts some of our most famous and successful sporting heroes, will take place on Monday 20 January 2014 at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Belfast.

Last year’s winners of the Young Team of the Year trophy, St Oliver Plunkett U16 football team helped launched this year’s awards programme and were joined by Fergal Woods, Sales representative of Linwoods , title sponsors, Steven Beacom, Sports Editor at the Belfast Telegraph and Jim Magilton, IFA Performance Director.

The Sports Awards celebrate the excellent achievements of local sports people from grass roots to elite sport and the public can nominate in each of the 12 categories by visiting www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sportsawards2013 and completing a nomination formbMonday 2 December 2013. Nominations will be judged and shortlisted in December and shortlisted finalists will be invited to come along to the January 20 awards evening hosted by TV personalities Jackie Fullerton and Claire McCollum.

As well as the coveted Sports Star of the Year title, category awards include Manager/Coach of the Year, Young Team and Young Player of the Year as well as the Hall of Fame trophy, Local Heroes and Sportsperson with a Disability. Other categories are Special Recognition Award, George Best Breakthrough, Team of the Year and the WJ ‘Paddy’ Patterson Award for services to sport presented by the NI Sports Forum.

As a tribute to former Belfast Telegraph sports editor Malcolm Brodie, who sadly passed away earlier this year, the Player of the Year category has been re-named “The Malcolm Brodie Player of the Year Award” in memory of the highly respected and much loved sports writer and commentator.

Armagh based Health foods company, Linwoods are once again backing the Sports Awards and Linwoods Brand Manager Karla McAviney said: “Linwoods is delighted, for the fourth consecutive year, to be a major sponsor of the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards. We see this as a healthy and dynamic partnership and a high profile podium from which Linwoods can both celebrate the crème de la crème of sport in Northern Ireland and reinforce our company’s long-standing association with healthier lifestyles and fitness.

“Linwoods is a multi-million pound food manufacturing and distribution business based in Armagh and, as a local business, we take pride in acknowledging and celebrating Northern Ireland’s sporting achievements. We’re happy to wave the flag for healthy living and to promote our Super Healthy Seeds in our drive to encourage better, more active lifestyles that involve healthier food choices while at the same time giving something back to our community.”

Chairman of the judging panel and Belfast Telegraph sports editor, Steven Beacom said, “I would really encourage everyone to put forward nominees for consideration from both the grass roots and elite sports sectors. Northern Ireland continues to punch well above its weight and year on year the judges face a huge challenge ultimately deciding on the top winners. I’m certainly looking forward to a great line-up of nominations over the next two months.”

Last year’s winners included the Ulster Rugby team, Holywood golfer Rory McIlroy, motorbike star Ryan Farquhar, hurling coach PJ O’Mullan, paralympians Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop, boxer Michael Conlan and football legend Gerry Armstrong. Also honoured were veteran fencer Fiona Haldane, St Oliver Plunkett FC U16 and longtime volunteer sportsperson Ken Nixon. Also chalking up awards were swimmer Bethany Firth and Olympic heroes Alan Campbell, Peter and Richard Chambers and Paddy Barnes.

Also supporting the awards programme is Sport Northern Ireland who will take on the role of ‘sporting partner.’ Chief Executive Antoinette McKeown said: “Sport Northern Ireland is delighted to be the sporting partner for this year’s Sports Awards and to give much needed recognition to the best of NI. It has been an exciting year for sport and our athletes have given us plenty to celebrate. We are really looking forward to seeing the nominations roll in!”

Other companies and organisations supporting the 2013 Sports Awards are Belleek who will supply specially created trophies and the Northern Ireland Sports Forum.

For details on each category and tips on how to create a nomination visit www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sportsawards2013. Nominations can be submitted online or by hard copy (no more than 200 words) and posted to Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, C/O JPR, Sylvan House, 232-240 Belmont Road, Belfast BT4 2AW.

To purchase tickets for the Gala Awards evening on 20 January 2014, contact Sarah Weir at JPR Tel 028 9076 0066 or email sarah.weir@jprni.com