McDowell hails Irish fans after landing Sportstar of Year award
AMID all the honour and glory brought by his magnificent last seven months on the world fairways, Graeme McDowell treasures the support he and Ireland's golfing ambassadors receive from their homeland.
After a year where the Portrush hero charged up the global rankings following his US Open win and starring role in Europe's Ryder Cup victory at Celtic Manor, that support saw McDowell become an overwhelming winner of the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year for 2010 at a gala luncheon in the Westbury Hotel yesterday.
Tied with US Masters champion Phil Mickelson in fourth place on the world ladder, the product of Rathmore Golf Club was unable to attend yesterday's Dublin event due to his preparations for the Abu Dhabi Championship, which starts tomorrow, but McDowell took a break to extend thanks to those who voted him as Ireland's premier Sportstar for 2010.
"For me, a really big part of what has happened over the past year has been the incredible support I've had from people on both sides of the border, Irish Independent readers, and how much, as golfers, all of us on Tour appreciate the encouragement we get from everyone at home," he said.
"Golf is very Irish and we get some great support. I've had a huge response from home, especially over the last seven or eight months, from the US Open, right through to the Ryder Cup and the Chevron ... the support I've had through my website, through Facebook, Twitter and text messages from just everyone is amazing.
"It's very heartening to know what people think of what we are doing and it's great to follow with Rory (McIlroy) in the footsteps of Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley -- that Irish golf is strong and the people love it helps sustain us out here."
The Ulsterman's record in Abu Dhabi pales by comparison with his recent efforts. He has made the cut just once in three appearances here but the golf course has changed this year and so has McDowell.
Brendan Maher was named Young Sportstar of the Year after the Tipperary hurler played a starring role for his county as he claimed both the All-Ireland SHC and U-21 titles within a week.
And 20 years on from Italia '90, famous names from Irish soccer, including Ray Houghton and Packie Bonner, were reunited as Jack Charlton was inducted into the Irish Independent Hall of Fame.