Irish rugby legend Willie John McBride included in UK New Year Honours list
TWO Northern Ireland sporting greats are among those set to receive honours from the Queen as part of the UK's New Year Honours list.
Former Manchester United star Harry Gregg will receive an OBE at Buckingham Palace next year, while former Lions rugby captain Willie John McBride will get a CBE.
McBride (78) captained the victorious 1974 Lions tour to South Africa during a distinguished career. He said he regarded his honour for services to rugby union as belonging to all his former team-mates.
In recent years he has been involved with a number of charities helping disabled and disadvantaged children.
"I'm really thrilled, a CBE is terrific. When you get to this age, you think people have forgotten about you so it is nice to be remembered," he told the Press Association.
"1974 was my Everest, to captain the Lions, and I would like to think this honour is shared with all the guys who were on that tour, because they really were outstanding and they made my job as captain very easy."
Gregg made himself a household name with 247 appearances for Manchester United in the 50s and 60s.
He survived the 1958 Munich air disaster which saw 23 people killed when a plane carrying the Manchester United team crashed on take-off in Germany.
The 86-year-old became a national hero after helping to pull survivors from the wreckage. While praised for his actions, he has always played down his role.
Earlier this year he travelled to Old Trafford for the 60th anniversary of the Munich crash, and said he believed it would be his last trip to the historic ground.
He is honoured for services to football.
The two men were among a number of sporting stars recognised by the Queen, also including a knighthood for cricketer Alastair Cook, and awards for Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas, England soccer boss Gareth Southgate and his captain Harry Kane.
Welsh cyclist Thomas, 32, has won three world championships and two Olympic gold medals along with this year's Tour de France, while the honours for Southgate and Kane follow England's World Cup run in Russia this Summer in which the team finished fourth, their best result since victory in 1966.
The awards also include a damehood for model Lesley Lawson, better known as Twiggy, one of the defining faces of the swinging 1960s.
Two members of the team who rescued 12 junior footballers and their coach from a flooded cave in Thailand, Richard Stanton and John Volanthen, received the George Medal for gallantry.
A knighthood goes to writer Philip Pullman, whose books include the "His Dark Materials" trilogy, while "Gruffalo" children's author Julia Donaldson, 70, is awarded a CBE.
CBEs also go to Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti, 31, and actress Sophie Okonedo, 50.
The New Year's honours have been awarded since Queen Victoria's reign in the 19th century and aim to recognise not just well-known figures but those who have contributed to national life through often selfless and unsung contributions over many years.
In that spirit, an OBE for fighting gun and knife crime goes to Mark Prince, 49, whose son Kiyan was fatally stabbed outside his school aged 15 in May 2006, while 28-year-old Stephen Addison who set up boxing classes to channel young people’s energy away from crime is awarded the BEM.
The biannual honours list is released on the Queen's official birthday in June and at the end of each year.