Development & Alumni Relations Office 

QUEEN’S BLUES AWARDS GO ON-LINEIndividual and team winners of Deep RiverRock Blues Awards

23 June 2020

Usually staged in the Sir William Whitla Hall on the University campus, the 2020 Queen's Deep RiverRock Blues Awards were hosted virtually by sports psychologist Hugh Campbell, with keynote addresses from High Performance expert Gary Keegan, Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Greer and Head of Sport Liz McLaughlin. 

Produced by University staff, this year saw the event go on-line in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has gripped the world over the last 6 months.

A very difficult year for sport, which resulted in individual Blues Awards not being awarded due to the global lockdown, did however see a lengthy list of impressive achievements by individual Queen’s students and teams.

Despite the 2019/20 season ending in a most unusual and dramatic fashion, the academic year was marked by a number of significant sporting achievements and performances. Among the main honours presented on Thursday 28 May were Team and Coach of the Year, along with Individual Achievement and Special Contribution to Sport awards.

Speaking ahead of the evening, Liz McLaughlin Head of Queen’s Sport said: “These are really exceptional circumstances and, understandably, we are not able to provide the same sort of celebratory event that would normally have been the case to mark the success of our athletes and teams.

“This on-line event does, however, provide us with an opportunity to engage with a larger audience, especially those alumni who have enjoyed sport whilst at Queen’s.”

The 2020 Queen's Deep RiverRock Blues Award winners were:

  • Team of the Year – Ladies Hockey (pictured top left above) – Premier League Champions (the first Queen’s team to do so) and unbeaten throughout the 2019/20 season
  • Coach of the Year – Rugby’s Derek Suffern (bottom left)  – who brought Queen's to the brink of promotion when the season was cancelled
  • Individual Achievement – Ronan Young (top right) – a great season for Queen's Soccer team with many memorable performances, including by Ronan who earned an Irish Universities cap at International Level.
  • Special Contribution to Sport – Simon Bell (bottom right) – Queen's Ladies' Senior Hockey Coach. Simon has been involved with Queen's Hockey for more than a decade and helped oversee the development of the University’s new world-class hockey pitch at Upper Malone.

The awards were hosted by Hugh Campbell, a renowned sports psychologist who has been involved with sport at Queen’s since 2011. Hugh, who has worked with some of Ireland’s top sportspeople, is vastly experienced in helping elite athletes and teams maximise their performance. He currently provides Performance Skills Coaching to Academy athletes across all sports at Queen’s.

The evening included sponsor thank yous, highlights from sporting year, through to the daily online COVID-19 lockdown activities programme.

Addessing the virtual audience Professor Ian Greer, President and Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s said: “During these challenging times, sport provides so many stories of hope and overcoming the odds.

“Just 12 months ago, we unveiled a new gameplan for sport, which included a vibrant culture of excellence, that would positively impact the lives of students, staff and the wider community.

“One year on, we find ourselves in the midst of this global pandemic, but our vision has not diminished.”

Commenting on the refurbished boathouse at Stranmillis, the new hockey pitch at Upper Malone and state-of-the-art gym facilties in the University’s citycentre student accommodation, Professor Greer added: “Our motivation is to ensure that our students have the very best opportunities to come together, participate in a variety of sports and excel on the pitch, on the court or in the water.

Professor Greer paid tribute those graduates and members of the wider community for their support over the last 12 months.

“I would like to thank and ackowledge the contribution that the wider community plays in supporting sporting activity at Queen’s.

“Our wonderful alumni groups, who support students in so many ways, including coaching and mentoring, and to the many businesses who invest in our students and clubs, through generous sponsorship and support.

In conclusion, Professor Greer added: “We’re living in a changing world, but I am very confident that we will emerge stronger than ever from this time of global crisis, demonstrating the resilience, ambition and community spirit that has always characterised the sporting community here at Queen’s.”  

Guest Speaker, Gary Keegan from Uppercut Performance Support, provided an insight into how athletes should deal with the current break in training and routine caused by Covid-19 in an address entitled Harnessing your Champion mind-set.

Gary’s role as a high-performance coach has included working with Irish Boxing, All-Ireland Football winners, Dublin, All-Ireland Hurling winners, Tipperary, Leinster Rugby and Cricket Ireland.

He encouraged the online audience to deal with adversity by embracing the opportunity, learning about themselves and shifting personal perspective. Described as a man who has brought charisma, magnetism and a hard edge to every sport with which he has worked, Gary’s advice and insights were highly supportive.  

“When you find yourself drifting, when you find yourself using excuses, it’s time for you to take some responsibility and ownership. So you are more self-accountable, now than you’ve ever been in your career.

“You need to stay on top of how you self-manage and self-organise.”   

Rounding off the formal speeches, Liz McLaughlin, Head of Queen’s Sport thanked the audience for joining the ‘awards with a difference’.

“Seeing what our clubs and athletes have been doing over the last year has been inspirational, and what they continue to do in this unprecedented time.

“I believe sport and physical activity will occupy a more important and positive place than ever before in University life. We are currently mapping out what the ‘new normal’ may look like and how we are going to deliver student sport going forward.

With Queen’s Sport currently planning for the 2020/21 year and for new ways of ensuring students have the best possible sporting experience when they eventually return to campus, the potential for engaging with larger audiences down the line is on the sporting horizon.

“It’s a time of opportunity and we have to grasp it with both hands,” concluded Liz.    

Relive this year's event - Queen's University Belfast Deep RiverRock Blues Awards 2020

For more on Queen’s Sport visit the website; to support the University’s sporting clubs and societies through the Queen’s Annual Fund visit the DARO website or to discuss sporting sponsorship opportunities contact Paddy Gilmore.  

For general enquiries about this story or to submit a graduate news item, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen’s University Belfast.

Winner bios:

Derek Suffern – Coach of the Year

The vastly experienced, former Wallace High School, Ballynahinch and Ulster coach was nominated alongside Simon Bell of Queen’s Hockey and Peter Thompson of Queen’s Soccer.

Derek oversaw a tremendous run of form which, after a quiet start to the season, saw the first XV on the verge of automatic promotion in the all-Ireland League. His work in developing Rugby at Queen’s was rewarded with this accolade.

Simon Bell – Special Contribution to Sport

Simon got involved with Queen’s Ladies Hockey in 2007, when the team was languishing at the bottom of the third tier of Ulster Hockey. This year the ladies became Premier League Champions, for the first time in the history of the Club, after a remarkable season in which they were undefeated.

Commenting on his contribution to sport, Hugh Campbell said that Simon has the ability to imbue his players with the same qualities he himself exhibits – tenacity, flair and a never quit attitude.

Ronan Young – Sports Achievement Award – Individual

In a year which saw QUB Soccer making history by beating Linfield in the Irish Cup it was great to see one of their stalwarts recognised with this prestigious award.

Ronan Young is a Queen’s Soccer Academy athlete and has played at the highest level in student football, representing Ireland in the 2019 World University Games in Naples. Ronan inspired his team to victory throughout the season not least in the win over Linfield which Hugh Campbell described as being of the same epic proportions as Herford beating Newcastle United in the FA cup – the biggest shock result ever!

Team of the Year 2020 – Ladies Hockey

Team of the Year 2020 is the Ladies Hockey team, who won the Ulster Premier League in style, with a season long unbeaten run.

They faced stiff competition from QUB Netball and QUB Soccer teams but edged the competition to receive the accolade.

Elite Athlete, Ireland Under 21 international Captain, Erin Getty, who was herself nominated for the Award for Individual Achievement, accepted the trophy on behalf of the team.  


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