Elaine Junk won the prestigious People’s Award at this year’s McDonald’s Irish FA Grassroots Football Awards gala.
The People’s Award winner - it was decided by an online public vote - was rewarded for her work in developing girls and women’s football in Northern Ireland.
The awards, now in their 17th year, recognise the huge contribution to community football of clubs, coaches and volunteers that make grassroots football throughout Northern Ireland such a success.
Elaine Junk, the first woman to win the People’s Award, initially got involved in football in the mid-1990s.
Currently chair of Mid Ulster Ladies FC, the mum-of-two was the first woman elected on to the Mid Ulster Football Association and continues to represent and advocate for women’s football on the Irish Football Association’s Council. She is also a former chair of the Northern Ireland Women’s Football Association.
The McDonald’s Irish FA Grassroots Football Awards presentation ceremony took place this evening at Belfast City Hall.
More than 180 guests were there to celebrate and recognise the highest ever number of nominations across eight categories.
Among the special guests were McDonald’s Head of Northern Ireland Football and Spurs legend Pat Jennings and McDonald’s Football Ambassador and Arsenal great Martin Keown.
And Julie Nelson, the first Northern Ireland senior women’s international to earn 100 caps, was a VIP guest, too.
The Volunteer of the Year accolade went to Phil McKinley, who has dedicated his time over many years to Lurgan Town, where he was a successful player before becoming a coach for both boys and girls teams and running a programme for children with learning and physical disabilities. And he is also secretary of the Co Armagh club.
Other winners on the night included McDonald’s Football Mum of the Year Sandra Bownes,who has been involved with Antrim Rovers for the past 16 years in a range of roles, and Neil Ardis, who picked up the Inclusive Award for his work with Valley Rangers Youth in Kilkeel and in setting up, in conjunction with Autism Support Kilkeel, an autism football group. He has also established a girls’ team in the Co Down town.
Rebekah Irvine was named Young Volunteer of the Year.Rebekah has grown up at NFC Kesh in Co Fermanagh. She began coaching there seven years ago and has subsequently taken on various administrative roles, including running the club’s youth teams.
Dungiven Celtic FC lifted the Accredited Club of the Year trophy. The North-West club was applauded for its strong youth structure and for placingcommunity and family at its core.