Liz Howard wins National Volunteer in Sport award

Unsung heroes get recognition

Unsung heroes get recognition

Johnny Watterson reports for the Irish Times newspaper.

2009 NATIONAL AWARDS TO VOLUNTEERS IN IRISH SPORT: Over 400,000 people give of their time voluntarily to sports clubs and organisations in Ireland each year.

VOLUNTEERS, WHO run and administer sport in Ireland but often go unnoticed, were honoured yesterday at a National Awards ceremony in Dublin. Every year in Ireland over 400,000 people give their time voluntarily to Irish sport through their involvement with sports clubs and organisations.

Twelve of those individuals were honoured at a presentation in Farmleigh yesterday when Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Martin Cullen presented the 2009 National Awards to Volunteers in Irish Sport.

Among the recipients was Jim O’Shea from Waterford, the father of Manchester United’s John O’Shea. He received a lifetime award for his work with local soccer club, Ferrybank AFC.

Liz Howard, who has been involved with the GAA for many years, particularly camogie, received the award for National Administrator of the Year, while the award for Junior Volunteer went to 17-year-old Orla Grehan from Ferbane in Co Offaly for her work with Ferbane Belmont Minor GAA Club.

The National Awards to Volunteers in Irish Sports is an initiative of the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism in conjunction with the Federation of Irish Sports which represents some 68 sports in Ireland.

The scheme is also being supported by Setanta Sports, the Community Foundation and the Irish Sports Council.

This is the second time the awards have been presented with individuals also receiving recognition at the inaugural event in 2007.

The winners were selected by a committee chaired by the 1956 Olympic 1500 metre champion, Ronnie Delany and also included Malachy Logan, Sports Editor, The Irish Times ; Des Cahill, RTÉ; Niall Cogley, Setanta Sports; John Treacy, CEO, The Irish Sports Council; Tim Scully, Department of Arts, Sport Tourism and Sarah O’Connor, CEO, the Federation of Irish Sports.

Speaking at the presentation of the awards Minister Cullen said: “Sport at every level in Ireland could not exist without the efforts of the many volunteers who give their time freely to encourage people to become involved in sport and to nurture those people through the important formative years of their sporting careers. The commitment, generosity and contribution of these volunteers to our communities and society is inestimable. It would be difficult to put a real value on what they give to Irish sport and how Irish sport benefits from their efforts.

“In presenting awards to the 12 volunteers today we wish to recognise all of the 400,000 people who give of their time so freely every year. As a country we punch far above our weight on a world stage. That we do is inextricably linked to the efforts of our volunteers who have undoubtedly nurtured most of our stars to take the first steps to sporting success”.

Also speaking at the presentation of the awards, Sarah O’Connor, chief executive of the Federation of Irish Sports, said: “Ireland has a rich vein of people volunteering in sport at all levels. It is imperative that we never take such volunteering for granted. Without it we would not have the successes in Irish sport that we have today.

“While obviously today we have many professional coaches and administrators at the highest level really we should always remember that they can only operate at the level they do given the many volunteers who still give so freely of their time at all levels of Irish sport.”


National Administrator of the Year

Liz Howard (Camogie) Tipperary

(Length of Service three years)

Liz served as president of Cumann Camogaiochta na nGael from 2006 to 2009. A talented and committed camogie player in her youth, she acted on her clear vision for the growth and development of the Association at all levels and as president oversaw the implementation of the Association’s first strategic plan.

Junior Volunteer of the Year

Orla Grehan (Gaelic Games):

(Length of Service 5 years)

From Ferbane Co Offaly 18-year-old Orla is currently in her final year at Gallen Community School, Ferbane. She has great interest in sport and has given her time to Ferbane Belmont Minor Club and to other local voluntary organisations.

Adult Manager of the Year

Jimmy Corbett (Ladies GAA), Mayo

(Length of Service 23 years)

Mayo native and full-time farmer, Jimmy set up the Carnacon Ladies GAA Club in 1986 when women’s Gaelic football was in its infancy. Since then the Carnacon Ladies have progressed to win numerous underage and senior county titles. Jimmy has been to the forefront of all these successes. His enthusiasm is unrelenting.

Adult Coach of the Year

Carmel Malone (Special Olympics), Dublin

Length of Service 20 years)

Inspired by her son Brian, an athlete with an intellectual disability, Carmel founded the Irishtown Special Olympics Athletics Club in 1989 with the help of her friend Bernie Griffin. Carmel has acted in a number of roles including club manager, secretary, treasurer, athlete protection officer and head coach over the past 20 years.

Youth Manager of the Year

Hughie Nolan (Soccer), Wicklow

(Length of Service 20 years)

Hughie grew up in Newtownmountkennedy and played with local club Newtown United until 1992. He cuts the grass, marks the pitches, puts up nets, arranges all the coaching courses for the managers, attends all the league meetings , writes articles for the local papers and updates the website. In the summer he runs soccer camps and competitions for kids of all ages.

Sports Official of the Year

Joseph Brown (Swimming), Dublin

(Length of Service 24 years)

Joseph has worked tirelessly to help develop open water swim racing in Leinster to a level where there are 25 races each summer. He attends each of the 25 races – a commitment which takes in every weekend from June until mid September and has yet to miss a race since his initial appointment back in 1985.

Disability Sport Volunteer of the Year

Joe and Bernie Walsh (Blindsports), Dublin

(Length of Service 30 years)

Now in their seventies, both have been involved in athletics for the last 40 years. They have eight children, three of whom have a visual impairment. Since the 1960s they have provided advice, structure and training and coaching sessions to young and adult athletes with a visual impairment on a weekly basis.

Youth Coach of the Year

Seamus Reynolds (Rowing), Derry

(Length of Service 29 years)

Seamus has been involved in rowing since 1978 and since the 1990s has concentrated on coaching. His coaching commitments during the winter see him in the club on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. The success of Bann Rowing Club is down to Seamus’s efforts and commitment.

Club man of the Year

Joe Cullen (Soccer) Dublin;

(Length of Service 10 years)

Joe lost one of his legs while working with CIE just over 15 years ago removing an obstacle from a railway line. As a result of the accident, Joe could no longer work and found it difficult to occupy himself . He is now the facilities manager at Kilbarrack United and is responsible for maintaining the dressing rooms, clubhouse, erecting the goalposts, nets and marking the pitch.

Community Administrator of the Year

Joe Flynn (Athletics) Cork;

(Length of Service 42 years)

Joe O’Flynn started his athletic career in the 1950s. Following the establishment of Leevale AC in 1967, he got involved first as an athlete and since as a coach and administrator. He has performed several roles including serving 20 years as secretary and 15 years as chairman. He has also been involved in the promotion of athletics throughout Cork.

Lifetime Award

Jim O’Shea (Soccer) Waterford.

(Length of Service 40 years)

For over 40 years Jim O’Shea has been tireless in his work and commitment to Ferrybank AFC since it was established. Over the years he has marked the pitches, put up the nets, herded cows off the field so that the game could start on time, attended delegate meetings, attended disciplinary hearings for players, managed teams, washed jerseys and served as chairman.

Leave a Reply