Nine GAA volunteers to be honoured at Federation of Irish Sport Awards
Nine GAA volunteers - Damian Mór Ó Néill (Naomh Colum Cille, Tyrone) Denis Martin (Staker Wallace GAA, Limerick), Peter Callan (Naomh Fionnbarra and St Anne’s GFC, Louth), Eamonn McGowan (Allen Gaels, Leitrim), Frank McGhee (CLG Ard an Ratha, Donegal), James Daly (Silverbridge GFC, Armagh), Joe Moore (St Aidan’s GAA, Roscommon), Pat Hennessey (Toomevara GAA, Tipperary) and Sean Smith (Crosserlough GFC, Cavan) will receive nationwide recognition next week for their dedication to sport, as they have been awarded the Tyrone, Limerick, Louth, Leitrim, Donegal, Armagh, Roscommon, Tipperary and Cavan awards respectively for the 2021 Federation of Irish Sport Volunteers in Sport Awards, proudly supported by EBS.
The awards will take place virtually on December 7th, 8th and 9th and will see all nine GAA volunteers, along with volunteers from across the country, honoured for their amazing dedication to volunteering across a variety of different sports.
As a schoolboy and with the help of his friends, Damian Mór Ó Néill established Naomh Colum Cille Hurling Club in the Clonoe and Coalisland Parishes of Co. Tyrone. His commitment to the club over the last 35 years has led them to incredible success including competing in the All-Ireland Junior Club Final in Croke Park in 1996. As a young man, Damian played minor football for Tyrone but decided to follow his passion for hurling, a passion that has led him to promote hurling within East Tyrone and have a hugely positive impact on hundreds of young players. Damian currently serves as the club’s chairperson and has previously served in numerous committee positions as well as coaching positions within the club. His love of hurling and the Irish language, as well as his dedication to the sport and club, has made Damian a valued member of the community over the last 35 years.
Denis Martin’s impact on Staker Wallace GAA is immeasurable. Having joined the club in the 1970’s, Denis immersed himself into the club and at various points since 1982, has held the role of Junior Club Secretary, often stepping back to take on a different volunteer role in the club. Denis is involved with every aspect of the running of the club, organising fundraisers, manning the parking at matches and selling tickets for the club lotto - Denis has done it all. Denis’ role goes beyond the clubhouse and he is always on hand to coordinate first aid courses to all the new volunteers and coaches and is an extremely valuable club person.
Peter Callan has been dedicated to Naomh Fionnbarra and St. Anne’s GFG for more than 50 years. He is a passionate groundman and committee member who has always ensured that facilities are open when necessary and in good time, that pitches are lined, that the grass is kept in excellent playing condition, goal nets installed and flags lined out for all games that take place involving the club. Peter ensures that the club has the best facilities possible and his dedication to the club ensures that children from nursery right through to minor grades and adults have a welcoming facility to call their own.
Eamonn McGowan has dedicated more than 65 years to GAA and has been involved in every aspect of Allen Gaels since its inception as a club 52 years ago. A decorated player, Eamonn won six Senior Hurling club medals before transitioning to management at Allen Gaels. All training sessions, from nursery to senior, take place under his watchful eye and you are guaranteed to meet him at every single game, no matter the age group. In addition to his coaching and management positions, Eamonn takes charge of all aspects of the upkeep of Allen Gael’s ground, Shane McGettigan Memorial Park, a ground for which he worked and fundraised tirelessly in the early 2000s. In 2013, Eamonn began his management of the Gaelic4Mothers&Others team, a role which he takes immense pride in and continues in to this day.
Frank McGhee’s involvement with CLG Ard an Ratha began in 1958 when he played with his Primary School Meenavalley in the Ardara Schoolboys League. Little did he realise then that he would go on and play for the club for a further 43 years. Frank’s contribution to the club was not limited to playing, as he managed underage teams in the ‘70s and ‘80s before holding the Senior Team Manager’s position from 1987 to 1990. He has since trained the senior and reserve teams with his enthusiasm for the game never waning. In addition to his coaching, Frank also spent time refereeing at underage level, often acting as linesman and umpire for the club at both home and away games. Furthermore, Frank prepares the grounds for all matches, getting flags ready, car park stewarding, opening of dressing rooms, and anything in relation to repairs and maintenance he always has the tool box in the boot of his car.
James Daly is the epitome of an Irish volunteer and has dedicated his entire life to his community and his GAA club. He is around the club every single day and knows everything about the club. James inspires others to become volunteers by the example he sets through his work at Silverbridge GFC. When the club needs an electrician, or a joiner, or a plumber, James will ensure the job is done correctly. Silverbridge has a massive campus with three fields, a large community centre and seven breakout rooms for which James is the full-time volunteer caretaker, a job he is extremely dedicated to.
Joe Moore is a stalwart of St. Aidan’s GAA club. Since the club’s inception in 1956, Joe has been involved in every aspect of St. Aidan’s, from playing, to managing, to refereeing and everything in between. Since a Junior Championship win in 1966, in which Joe lined out as right wing forward, the club has continued to grow from strength to strength, in no small part due to Joe’s herculean efforts on and off the pitch. At his first ever club meeting, Joe was appointed as Club Secretary, remaining in that role for some time. He has also committed his time to refereeing, taking charge of the 1975 Senior County Final and replay between Roscommon Gaels and Castlerea St. Kevin’s. Today, Joe is still heavily involved in the club, as Club President and as part of the Parks Committee, and is ever-present by the pitch on match day.
Pat Hennessey has been a volunteer at Toomevara GAA Club for over 40 years and his contribution to the club in that time has been invaluable. Despite being a busy farmer, the list of tasks he accomplishes on a day-to-day basis for the club is outstanding. From opening up the field and locking up a night, to lining the pitch before matches and operating the manual scoreboard, to treating the pitch so it is kept in prime condition, it is clear that Pat is truly committed to the club and its success in the community. He is always involved in club fundraising events, selling tickets and keeping spirits high. A passionate hurling fan, he has a wonderful knowledge of the game and club members frequently seek his advice and wisdom. Pat’s impact on his club and community, while quiet, has been effective and indispensable.
Sean Smith's passion for Crosserlough GFC is unquestionable. His first official role in the club began in 1981 as PRO, which began a run of 28 years as an officer of the club in many different roles. He has held the role of PRO twice, Treasurer twice and Assistant Secretary. For the last 20 years he has also been the caretaker of the club grounds along with being the Lotto Coordinator and Kitman for many of the teams. Sean can always be found at the GAA grounds either mowing the field or ensuring the pitch is lined out properly for upcoming games. He also ensures that all other weekly community activities take place in the club and are run to the highest possible standards. Sean has been the one constant within the club for over 40 years, he is a dedicated leader, who goes over and beyond for his club and community each and every week.
The Volunteers in Sport Awards celebrate the contributions of the band of volunteers across the country who give their time to Irish sport and physical activity every year. This equates to approximately 37.3 million hours of volunteering across Ireland’s 13,000 registered sports clubs and associations and, according to Sport Ireland's 2021 'Researching the Value of Sport in Ireland' report, is worth an estimated €1.5bn to the exchequer.
Throughout September and October members of the public, sports clubs and governing bodies were invited to nominate an individual whose contribution to sport and physical activity in Ireland has made a real difference to their community, club or county. The nominations and award recipients were selected by a judging panel consisting of 12 individuals drawn from sports administration, the volunteer community and media, and included former Director General of the GAA, Paraic Duffy, RTÉ broadcaster, Marie Crowe and CEO of Gaisce, Yvonne McKenna.
In addition to the 32 county-level award winners, Amina Moustafa, a volunteer across many different sports including football, basketball and swimming, received the overall Outstanding Achievement Award for her incredible service to the promotion of sport amongst women of diverse ethnic backgrounds, as well as her continued support of Sport Against Racism Ireland (SARI).
Máire Allen and Jacqueline McCormack have also received a Special Recognition Award for their amazing work with Roscommon Special Olympics Club. They have dedicated their time tirelessly over the last number of years and more recently, in the face of the challenging circumstances caused by Covid-19, did everything to ensure the club’s members remained fit and active throughout the various lockdowns.
Pádraic Kearney (RIP) has been honoured with a Special Recognition Award for his commitment to Gaelic Games in Adare GAA Club (Limerick). Pádraic was incredibly committed to his community, with his volunteerism going far beyond sport. His untimely passing earlier this year has been felt by everyone in the club, especially the younger members, who Pádraic coached for many years.
Commenting on the awards, Minister of State for Sport and the Gaeltacht, Jack Chambers, TD, said: “It is an honour for me to support this year’s Volunteers in Sport Awards and help recognise so many fantastic volunteers in our community. These awards have a special place in the sporting calendar as they recognise those who have given an incredible amount of time throughout the year who have ensured that sport can takes place in our communities, and they do so without the expectation of gratitude or reward. The amount of hard work and dedication that these volunteers give to sport in Ireland is quite truly astonishing and I am privileged to support both the volunteers and these awards. I would also like to thank the Federation of Irish Sport and EBS, and all who will help make these virtual ceremonies a memorable occasion for all.”
Speaking about the awards, CEO of the Federation of Irish Sport, Mary O’Connor said: “Despite another very challenging year for sport, we have once again seen how important volunteering has been to communities across Ireland. We have an enormous amount of gratitude for the army of volunteers who have ensured that sport could take place in a safe and controlled manner. Whether it be on pitches, courts, tracks, pools or even community halls across the country, the volunteers are always there to make sure sport and physical activity continues to take place around Ireland. It gives me immense pride to be able to recognise so many of these volunteers at next week’s virtual Volunteers in Sport Awards and I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to all of this year’s recipients. I would like to also thank EBS for their continued support in bringing wider recognition of volunteers in sport in Ireland to life. I would also like to express my gratitude to Minister Jack Chambers who will be taking the time out of his schedule to attend our virtual ceremonies next week and helping us to champion and celebrate the recipients.”
Managing Director of EBS, Paul Butler, commented: “EBS is delighted to partner with the Federation of Irish Sport once more to honour and recognise the everyday heroes around Ireland who make sure sport happens every day. EBS has been involved in local communities around Ireland for over 80 years and we are delighted to showcase the tremendous work these volunteers do for sport throughout their communities. These volunteers truly are the backbone of Irish sport, and we are proud to support them. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the recipients of the 2021 Volunteers in Sports Awards and thank them for all of the tireless work they do to ensure sport in Ireland continues to flourish.”
The awards will be streamed live each evening from 7pm on the Federation of Irish Sport’s Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/federationofirishsport/ with the awards schedule listed below:
- Tuesday, December 7th: Leinster and Special Recognition Award
- Wednesday, December 8th: Munster, Connacht and Special Recognition Award
- Thursday, December 9th: Ulster and Outstanding Achievement Award
For more information on the awards, visit http://www.volunteersinsport.ie/