Northern Ireland senior men’s internationals Josh Magennis and Niall McGinn have taken time out of their preparations for this week’s UEFA EURO 2020 qualifiers to visit the Irish FA Foundation’s Stay Onside programme at Maghaberry Prison.
The programme, which is delivered in partnership with the police service, probation service, youth justice agency, prison service and NIACRO, uses football to divert and deter young people away from offending. The programme is delivered in both custodial setting such as Maghaberry, Hydebank, Magilligan and Knockbracken, as well as in community settings.
Participants take part in a six-week programme, which runs close to their release from prison, and complete workshops in football-related subjects such as coaching, the laws of the game and mental health.
The aim is to give offenders the chance to turn their lives around through innovative intervention and to use football to help reduce re-offending and reduce the number of victims of crime.
Maghaberry Prison Governor David Kennedy said: “The Stay Onside programme has been so well received by prisoners.
“Health and fitness are important in the rehabilitation process, and in partnership with the Irish Football Association prisoners have worked towards getting a better understanding of the link between a healthy body and a healthy mind.
“Our job at Maghaberry Prison is to challenge people and to support them to change. This course has done that in spades. Both the prisoners and staff have engaged in a really positive way; ultimately this is another step towards motivating offenders and showing them a better road to take when they’re released.
“The visit today of the two international players has been very successful and I have no doubt will serve to inspire and encourage those in our care.”
Niall McGinn said: “It was a real privilege to come to the prison, to meet staff and participants, and to see at first-hand the work that the Irish FA Foundation does through the “Stay Onside” programme. Football has the power to change lives for the better and this is a great example of how our sport can be used for the good of everyone in society.”
Josh Magennis said: “I am proud that the Irish Football Association is helping to pioneer this innovative programme and I was humbled to see the meaningful impact it has in the lives of the participants. Often as players we are simply concerned with winning our next match, but this programme shows that football’s greatest results can be away from the pitch.”