Sports Personality: Michael O'Neill wins Coach of the Year award

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O'Neill named coach of the year at 2015 SPOTY awards

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill ended a successful 2015 by winning Coach of the Year at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards.

O'Neill's team ended a 30-year absence from tournament football by qualifying for their first European Championship, which will be hosted by France in 2016.

The team won six and lost one of their 10 qualifying games to top their group.

O'Neill was appointed in December 2011 after taking Irish club Shamrock Rovers to the Europa League group stages.

He was presented the award by golfer Graeme McDowell and Olympic champion Denise Lewis to a huge ovation from the Belfast crowd.

O'Neill said: "To be here on this stage as the manager of my country and to be going to France is very special for me.

"I would like to congratulate all the other nominees, it is very humbling to get the award."

Michael O'Neill factfile
Born 5 July 1969
Began career with Coleraine in Irish League, before joining Newcastle United
Played as a midfielder and forward during a 20-year playing career
Among the clubs he played for were Dundee United, Hibernian, Coventry City, Wigan Athletic and St Johnstone
Made 31 appearances for Northern Ireland, scoring four goals
Was in charge of Brechin City and Shamrock Rovers, before being appointed Northern Ireland boss in December 2011

Northern Ireland and West Brom defender Jonny Evans was full of praise for the 46-year-old after their qualification.

"What I like about him is he won't just settle for what's there, he'll try to improve us as a team," Evans said.

"The fact is he's only with us for 10 days at a time and has improved us as players, as a squad, as individuals.

"He gets everyone playing for him and his tactical understanding is fantastic."

Recent Coach of the Year Award winners
2014: Paul McGinley (golf)2013: Warren Gatland (rugby union)
2012: Dave Brailsford (cycling)2011: Andy Flower (cricket)
2010: Colin Montgomerie (golf)2009: Fabio Capello (football)
2008: Dave Brailsford (cycling)2007: Enzo Calzaghe (boxing)

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