Joel Cassells has spoken of his pride after he was named the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council International Sportsperson of the Year on Saturday night.
At the inaugural combined awards night in the Lodge Hotel the international rower picked up the award in front of a packed audience.
Speaking to Times Sport afterwards Joel said he felt immense pride to be honoured by his local area.
“I’m very proud to have won this award,” he said.
“I had a small gap in training so I took the opportunity to make it home specially for the ceremony.
“There are so many great athletes in our new Causeway Coast and Glens council, so it’s a great feeling to have won!”
Cassells follows some illustrious names who have picked up the award under the old council system and Joel said he was thrilled to follow in their footsteps.
“It makes me feel incredibly humbled to be put up in even the same spectrum as Graeme McDowell and my fellow Coleraine legends Alan Campbell, Richard and Peter Chambers,” he said.
“It means the world to me that the town put me forward for this award and entrusts that I may one day live up to those big local names. That means the pressure is on now I suppose but I’m up for the challenge that brings.”
Elsewhere Limavady bowler Ryan O’Neill was named as Sportsman of the Year, Sonia Knox picked up the Sportswoman of the Year gong, Coach of the Year went to Geoff Bones of Bann Rowing Club, and Dr Tom Stark won the Chairmen’s Award.
These categories and their winners were: Junior Sportswoman, Hollie Buchanan, Sponsored by Chronicle Alpha Group, Richard Stratton: Junior Sportsman, Varun Chopra, Sponsored by McDonalds Coleraine is Bruce Bailie: Junior Team, Cross & Passion College Senior Hurling Team, sponsored by Nigel Scott Engineering; Sports Person of the Year with a Disability Sean Campbell, sponsored by Kennedys Orthodontics, David Kennedy; Sports Administrator, Maurice McAlister, sponsored by Roadside Garages, David Boyd; Services to Sport, Peter Jack, sponsored by Diamond Recruitment, Paul Muir; Coach of the Year, Geoff Bones, sponsored by McDonalds Coleraine, Bruce Bailie; Merit Award, Cushendall Ruari Og Senior Hurlers, sponsored by Nigel Scott Engineering, Nigel Scott; Senior Team, Causeway Archery Club, sponsored by Kennedys Orthodontics, David Kennedy; Sportswoman of the Year, Sonia Knox, sponsored by Roadside Garages, Liam Beckett; sportsman of the Year, Ryan O’Neill, sponsored by Diamond Recruitment, Ashleigh Lyle; International Sports Person of the Year Joe Cassells. sponsored by Chronicle Alpha Group, Damian Mullan; Chairmen’s Awards, Dr Tom Stark, sponsored by Four Sports Council’s Ballymoney, Coleraine, Limavady and Moyle.
For Joel it was straight back to England and the hard work of Olympic qualification on Sunday.
“Last week was the first GB trials assessment to kick off the 2015/16 rowing season,” he explained.
“This year is an important year for all of us in the squad, as it is Olympic year. So the weekend is about showing the selectors that you want to be in the mix for a seat in that Olympic boat in Rio.
“I was pretty happy with my performances at the assessment with a personal best on the Rowing Machine (erg) and my best ever result in the single scull, managing to make the top 5 within the squad. It was a big relief to show that I’m improving in the early stages of the season, but I’m never content. I’m confident I can find more as the season progresses, and will be fighting for my seat in the Lightweight Four.
“Next up we head off to Majorca for our annual cycling camp in a couple of weeks. It’ll be my first time going on this and I’ve been told countless time it’ll be the hardest, longest and most ruthlessly competitive training I’ll ever do.
“I’m not sure if I’m looking forward to it or not now, but a nice tan wouldn’t go a miss! Then we have our second assessment in mid December. It’s coming closer fast now, it’s all pretty exciting.”