For the 19th year running the McDonald’s Irish FA Grassroots Football Awards have honoured the regional heroes who are integral to the game right across Northern Ireland.
Fifteen regional winners, including clubs, coaches and volunteers, were presented with awards at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park by Northern Ireland’s record goalscorer, David Healy.
Both the clubs and the various individual winners have made a significant and positive civic impact both on and off the pitch during the Covid-19 pandemic, helping the game to return safely within their communities. They will now go forward to the national Northern Ireland awards in February.
Former Northern Ireland international David Healy said: “Year on year the McDonald’s Irish FA Grassroots Football Awards recognise the incredible work and commitment of football clubs and volunteers within the grassroots game who give their time to enable it to flourish and grow.
“Over the past few months in particular the proactive and valuable community work from local grassroots football clubs has been a huge credit to all involved. The awards are so important in honouring the volunteers and unsung heroes of the grassroots game who are the heartbeat of clubs and communities and contribute hugely for the good of football in Northern Ireland.”
The 2020 regional awards have seen clubs, coaches and volunteers from right across Northern Ireland gain special recognition, and this recognition is only possible through nominations received from the football-loving public.
The winners across five regions are:
Belfast Region – 22nd Old Boys’ and Ladies FC, club of the year; Artur Kopyt (Sparta Belfast Futsal/Glens Eagles), coach of the year; John Haveron (Albert Foundry), volunteer of the year.
North East – Bangor Young Men, club of the year; Stephen Gamble (Greenisland FC), coach of the year; Maeve Henning (Bangor Swifts Juniors), volunteer of the year.
South West – Draperstown FC, club of the year; Christopher Brady, Sky Blues Magherafelt, coach of the year; Noel Sweeney (Coalisland Young Stars), volunteer of the year.
North West – Portrush FC, club of the year; Shearnan McCay, Sion Swifts Ladies, coach of the year; David Cunningham, Ballymoney United Youth Academy, volunteer of the year.
South East – Caledon FC, club of the year, Rachael Rodgers, Mid Ulster Ladies, coach of the year; John O’Hanlon, Windmill Stars, volunteer of the year.
The winners of the overall awards will be revealed in February. The categories for the main McDonald’s awards include club of the year, Futsal Award, Inclusivity Award, People’s Choice, volunteer of the year, young volunteer of the year and coach of the year.
In what has been a challenging year for sport and wider society, many of this year’s worthy regional winners have incredible stories to tell, none more so than Artur Kopyt who has recently taken up a coaching role at Belgium Pro League club Royale Union Saint Gilliose. Artur epitomises the spirit of the awards having successfully developed a youth futsal programme for young players across Northern Ireland.
He explained: “My coaching journey started in 2009 when I took my first qualification with the Irish FA. Since then I have been involved with several grassroots football clubs across Northern Ireland and have had the privilege of working with various age groups and abilities.
“The McDonald’s Irish FA Grassroots Football Awards play an important role in acknowledging the efforts of volunteers who are vital in providing football opportunities and physical exercise to many children across Northern Ireland. The awards represent a huge honour for grassroots clubs and individuals.”