The countdown is on to Friday night’s sparkling awards ceremony in Belfast, when the 2014 Adelaide Irish Motorcyclist of the Year will be announced in front of a sell-out crowd.
The final shortlist of seven riders in the running for Irish motorbike racing’s most coveted piece of silverware has been revealed, with Isle of Man TT star Michael Dunlop joining World Superbike contender Jonathan Rea and British Supersport runner-up and double North West 200 winner Alastair Seeley among the nominees.
Last year’s winner, Eugene Laverty, also made the final seven picks along with brother Michael, British Supersport hot-shot Glenn Irwin and World Supersport rider Jack Kennedy.
Laverty, the current holder of the Enkalon Joey Dunlop trophy, made a stunning debut with the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki team last February, winning the opening World Superbike race of 2014 at Phillip Island in Australia.
The 28-year-old Toomebridge man, who finished 10th overall in the championship, has secured a dream two-year deal in the MotoGP class with Spanish team Aspar Honda.
Laverty will fly into Northern Ireland this week to attend the biggest night on the Irish motorcycling calendar, with new Kawasaki World Superbike signing Rea also making the trip.
Rea, who will take a short break from pre-season testing in Spain to join the star-studded line-up in Belfast, is among the favourites for the feature award after winning four races on the Pata Honda last season on his way to a superb third place in the championship.
Ulster road racing titan Dunlop is also firmly in the frame to lift the Joey Dunlop trophy for the first time after another memorable year.
The 25-year-old joined BMW to ride a factory-supported S1000RR and chalked up his second successive four-timer at the Isle of Man TT.
New Milwaukee Yamaha rider Dunlop gave the German manufacturer its first wins in the blue riband category on the Mountain Course in 75 years, powering to glory in the Superbike, Superstock and Senior races to put himself on 11 wins in total.
He also won the second Supersport race on his MD Racing Honda and bagged a brace at the North West 200, clinching the main Superbike and Superstock race wins.
Carrick man Seeley, meanwhile, finished as the runner-up in the British Supersport series for Northern Ireland’s Mar-Train Yamaha team, winning eight races throughout the campaign.
The 35-year-old also closed in further on Robert Dunlop’s record haul of 15 North West 200 wins, wrapping up a Supersport and Superstock double to extend his tally to 12.
Seeley has re-joined TAS Racing for 2015 to ride the Tyco BMW in the National Superstock 1000 Championship and will also have a full stable of machines for the North West 200.
Another Carrickfergus rider, Glenn Irwin, is also in contention after a magnificent run in the British Supersport Championship.
Irwin won five times on the Gearlink Kawasaki and only finished outside the top six three times in 24 races, while Dublin rider Kennedy scored his first World Supersport podium at Portimao in Portugal on the PTR Honda.
Michael Laverty also returns to Moneymore team TAS Racing in 2015 to spearhead the team’s assault on the MCE British Superbike title on the Tyco BMW following two years in MotoGP, when the vastly experienced Toome man rode for Paul Bird’s team in the Open class.
Thousands of votes were cast via a special online poll and all seven nominees will be in attendance at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Belfast on Friday as the 2014 Irish Motorcyclist of the Year is unveiled.
In all more than a dozen other awards, decided by a public vote and expert panel of judges chaired by former British Champion Adrian Coates, will be presented.
The full list of awards is as follows:
Red Bull Young Rider of the Year
Adelaide Masters Presentation
RPS Group Services to Motorcycling
Greenlight Television Special Recognition Award
Belfast Telegraph Team of the Year
IAM Outstanding Achievement Award
Off Road Rider of the Year
IFS International Road Racer of the Year including the IFS National Road Racer of the Year
Black Horse Short Circuit Rider of the Year including the Black Horse Best Rider on UK and Ireland Circuits
A. McLean Bookmakers Race of the Year
Belleek Hall of Fame; Adelaide Irish Motorcyclist of the Year in association with Enkalon