The Federation of Irish Sport have announced the winners of the 2023 Volunteers in Sport Awards proudly supported by the National Network of 29 Local Sports Partnerships.
The County Donegal award for 2022 has been awarded to Martin Shankey Smith of Naomh Conall GAA.
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. Minister of State with responsibility for Sport and Physical Education Thomas Byrne TD is the special guest speaker at the awards, which will take place next week on March 22nd at The Crowne Plaza Hotel, Blanchardstown and hosted by sports broadcaster Gráinne McElwain. The event will see volunteers from all 32 counties honoured for their amazing dedication to volunteering across a variety of different sports. Guests will also include key stakeholders from the sector. The overall Outstanding Achievement Award will be revealed on the day.
The recipient of the award for Co. Donegal is Martin Shankey Smith of Naomh Conall GAA, who has been volunteering at the club since he moved to the area over 20 years ago. From the outset, Martin helped the club in whatever way he could and he had lots of success bringing players through the age grades all the way up to minor level and on to senior. However, it was in his role as chairperson that he was able to make a huge difference across the board. Martin wanted to create a fully inclusive club and he did this by starting up many different initiatives at the club helping to bring the community together. These included the support of the LGTQI+ community, looking after the youth in the run up to the leaving cert and also a funday to raise money for the people of Ukraine. The impact of Martin’s work is there for all to see.
Micky Fleming of the Churchlands Golden Gloves Boxing club is the Derry winner while Martin Cassidy of Omagh Futsal Club was named as the Tyrone winner.
Throughout December and January members of the public, sports clubs and governing bodies were invited by the Federation of Irish Sport in partnership with the National Network of 29 Local Sports Partnerships to nominate an individual whose contribution to sport and physical activity in Ireland has made a real difference to their community, club or county. Following a shortlisting process by the Selection Committee, the judging panel consisting of 9 individuals drawn from sports administration, academia, the volunteer community and media, and included former Director General of the GAA, Paraic Duffy, RTÉ broadcaster, Marie Crowe and Declan Jordan, Senior Lecturer in Economics at UCC.
Commenting on the awards, Minister of State for Sport and Physical Education, Thomas Byrne TD said:
“The volunteers being recognised today deserve enormous credit. Their work, often unseen and undertaken without any fuss or fanfare, makes sport a reality for hundreds if not thousands of people in their communities. In particular, the work of volunteers enables young people to play the sport that they love, to meet their friends and form lasting friendships. In so many ways, volunteers are the lifeblood of sport in this country and I am privileged to have this opportunity to publicly acknowledge their vital contribution to Irish sport.”
Speaking about the importance of the awards, CEO of the Federation of Irish Sport, Mary O’Connor said:
“In every county throughout the country, clubs and sporting organisations facilitate multi-generational opportunities for people to be involved in sport and physical activity. The work and goodwill of sport volunteers across the country cannot be taken for granted… Every week in Ireland more than 450,000 volunteers bring sport and physical activity to life for our communities and it’s time we afford their hard work the recognition it deserves. It is therefore important that we showcase the size and scale of this contribution by bringing such volunteers together today at the Volunteers in Sport Awards with attendees from every county in the country to shine a spotlight on the positive work they do for sport and physical activity.”