SIX days after winning a European Indoor silver medal, Mark English was named as the 2014 Donegal News Sports Personality of the Year on Friday night.
The Letterkenny man scooped the top prize at the third annual awards night, in association with main sponsors Brian McCormick Sports and Leisure.
English was the Young Sports Personality of the Year in 2012, but he collected the top accolade on Friday following his superb 2014, topped by his winning of a bronze medal in the 800m at the European Championships in August.
At the Stadion Letzigrund in Zurich, English became only the seventh Irish athlete to medal at those Championship.
Polish pair Adam Kszczot and Artur Kuciapski took gold and silver, but following them home was the man in the green singlet, English.
He had run a season’s best of one minute 45.03 seconds at the Diamond League event in New York. At the Ichan Stadium, English ran 1:45.03 to finish second only to Olympic sensation David Rudisha.
In July, English had another blistering run to set a stadium record 1:45.30 at the Morton Stadium in Santry to win the 800m at the Morton Games.
“I had to think bigger,” English said on Friday night.
“I didn’t want to be thinking about junior or under-23 level anymore. That meant prioritising the World Championships this year over the Under-23s. That’s where I see myself now – I’d rather be in a world final at senior level than medal at under-23 level. That’s how I want to be remembered.”
After his stellar exploits in winning the indoor silver in Prague, English has set the bar nicely for 2015, with the World Championships in Beijing taking place in August.
He said: “The big aim for me is the World Outdoor Championships. I’m very much looking forward to that and training is going well so far. I’m on a good plan so hopefully it works out.”
Now coached by Nic Bideau, English hailed his support team and the assistance of Andrew Hegarty of Hegarty’s Ford who sponsored him a car.
He said: “They took a chance on me and sponsored me with a car. Without that, I wouldn’t be able to train in the places I want to.
“My family, too, have been a great support. Athletics these days is as much a team sport as an individual sport. I’m very lucky to have a great team around me.”
It was a measure of his class that he took a moment to remember the volunteers of Letterkenny Athletic Club, specifically referencing the late Neil Cullen whose work clearly left an impression on the young English.
By day, English is not only an elite athlete, but he’s a full-time medical student at UCD.
He said: “For me, it’s about time management – making a timetable and sticking to it. The balance between the study, training and social life is important. It’s been challenging, but the people around me make it so much easier.”
Already, the mind has turned a little towards 2016 when the Olympic Games take place in Rio De Janeiro.
With a knowing smile, English said: “I’m relishing the challenge.”
Last weekend, English came with a brilliant finale to take silver behind Marcin Lewandowski at the European
Indoors, beating Thijmen Kupers into third, the Letterkenny man coming home in 1:47.20.
The night was kept running smoothly by Master of Ceremonies Tommy Mar- tin, the Annagry native and TV3 sports presenter.
The Young Sports Personality of the Year was Geraldine McLaughlin, Termon’s sharpshooter, who fired her side to an All-Ireland senior club title. McLaughlin scored 3-8 in the All-Ire- land final win over Mourneabbey in Tuam. Over the course of Termon’s seven Championship games, the precocious McLaughlin hit a staggering 25 goals and 35 points.
“It was something that we were working on over a number of years,” McLaughlin said.
“We came back year after year. We lost the Ulster final in 2013 by 19 points, so the big one was playing Donaghmoyne in the Ulster final again last year. That was a huge turning point.
“We just believed in ourselves.
“It’s our togetherness. We’re a big family. But we had belief this year. Francie (Friel, manager) told us at the start of the year that we’d win it – and he was right!”
Two awards were winging their way back to the Burn Road with Termon named as the team of the year and Finn Valley Athletic Club’s continuing excellence saw the Stranorlar club awarded the Club of the Year prize.
Letterkenny Rovers stalwart Stephen ‘Dotsy’ Doherty was named as PRO of the Year having ensured that week-on-week, his club was kept to the forefront of the coverage.
And a popular winner of the Special Achievement award was Glenfin’s Kyle Glackin, a pupil at Little Angels in Letterkenny, who won two gold medals at the Special Olympics Ireland finals in the Motor Activities Training Programme.
Each of last year’s 12 monthly winners were presented with framed articles recapping their successes.
“This county’s sporting talent never ceases to amaze me,” said Donegal News Sports Editor Harry Walsh, himself a former Finn Harps player. “We have an endless array of top-class sports people in Donegal across so many sports.
“Our list of winners now over the three years is impressive. Hopefully the county keeps delivering in 2015.”
Main sponsor Brian McCormick of Brian McCormick Sports and Leisure added: “It is a privilege to be honouring such sports talent. The Donegal News are going in a great direction with this awards night and it’s great to see this amount of sporting talent in the one room.”
Sports Personality of the Year: Mark English;
Young Sports Personality of the Year: Geraldine McLaughlin;
Team of the Year: Termon senior ladies football team;
Club of the Year: Finn Valley AC;
PRO of the Year: Stephen Doherty;
Special Achievement: Kyle Glackin. Highly commended for special achievement: John Hegarty & Michael McGonigle;