Ulster and Ireland winger Jacob Stockdale has been chosen as the 2018 BBC Northern Ireland Sports Personality of the Year. The 22-year-old had a terrific calendar year, scoring eight tries in ten Tests as Ireland won the Six Nations Grand Slam and defeated New Zealand on home soil for the first time.
In another memorable twelve months for Northern Ireland sport, Jacob Stockdale faced tough competition for the prized BBC Sport NI honour from four-time World Superbike champion and 2017 winner Jonathan Rea and Ireland Women’s hockey star goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran.
Receiving his award at Kingspan Stadium, Stockdale told BBC Sport: “It’s massive honour, I didn’t really expect it. I’m just incredibly thankful for getting picked. If I was trying to put it into words I would say the year has been hectic, more than anything.
“It’s been a very fast-moving year from start to finish, but it’s been really, really enjoyable. There’s been a lot of big games in there that I feel lucky to have been a part of. There’s been a few wee periods (where I got a chance to reflect). After the Six Nations I got a week off, just got a chance to enjoy the fact that we’d would that.
“After Australia tour in June I had a bit of time off for holidays, so got to enjoy it then, and I suppose I haven’t really had time to think about the All Blacks game too much, which is probably not a bad thing!”
Stockdale was the Six Nations Player of the Championship after scoring a record seven tournament tries, including braces against Italy, Wales and Scotland, and says that his all-important score against the All Blacks a few weeks ago was the one that had the most impact.
“Yeah, for people watching the game, just because it was the only try in the game and because it was a pretty important one. I think for everybody else it seems like a massive try. For me it’s one I’ll never forget, but at the same time it’s another score and there’s a lot more to that game than me just scoring a try.”
Speaking about the earlier part of the year and the successful Six Nations run, the Ulster youngster added: “It was my first Six Nations and there’s always going to be mistakes and that. What I felt that I did well was learn from those mistakes game on game and made sure they didn’t happen in the next one.
“I was also blessed to be in a side that was really, really successful and that makes it a lot easier as a winger. You know when you’re behind a pack and a back-line that are attacking really well it makes it a little bit easier.. I’ve had great support from coaches and team-mates, and particularly my family and friends.
“To have the support of my family and friends behind me has been really special, not just in the last year but in the last three or four years whenever I was trying to struggle my way through the (Ulster) Academy and struggle through injuries, they were the people that kept me going. I have really good support behind me and I’m very thankful for it.”
BBC Northern Ireland’s Head of Sport, Jane Tohill, said the ‘historic nature of Jacob’s remarkable exploits in 2018 set him apart’.