The two finalists for the People’s Award in the McDonald’s Irish FA Grassroots Football Awards for 2020 have been announced today.
Belfast man William Shanks and Billy O’Flaherty MBE from Ballymena have been shortlisted as the finalists for the People’s Award, which recognises the outstanding contribution made by an individual to football in their local community and beyond. Both finalists have dedicated over four decades’ service to grassroots football in Northern Ireland.
The annual McDonald’s Irish FA Grassroots Football Awards, which celebrate 20 years in Northern Ireland this year, recognise the incredible work and commitment of football clubs and volunteers who give up their time and make a long-lasting impact on young people and communities across Northern Ireland.
Due to Covid-19 the 2020 awards gala was postponed and will instead be held virtually this month to celebrate those who have dedicated hours of their time for the good of local football in Northern Ireland.
William Shanks, who is currently a member of the committee at Dundonald-based Ridgeway Rovers and NI Co Down Select, has held many different roles in football down the years, including as a coach, kitman and talent scout for Sunderland and Hull City. William was also heavily involved in St Andrew’s Boys’ Club in Belfast, which produced Northern Ireland greats Steven Davis and Chris Brunt among others.
William (pictured above with NI legend David Healy) believes the evolution of grassroots football in Northern Ireland has had a hugely positive impact on society in general.
“I love to see kids fulfil their potential and succeed. That has always been my main motivator in being so hands-on in the local game,” he said. “Football helps young boys and girls get off the street, better themselves, meet new people and become more diverse and well-rounded individuals, which makes for a better society in Northern Ireland.”
Billy O’Flaherty MBE is a founding member of Carniny Amateur and Youth Football Club in Ballymena and is widely regarded as a football stalwart in the Mid-Antrim area. He was awarded an MBE for his work in the local community and has had many responsibilities on and off the football pitch – from secretary and committee member to coach.
“Local football has been one of the best tools for cross-community relations in Northern Ireland and we must not underestimate that,” he said. “Football is often the common denominator that brings people from all walks of life together, which has helped us take great strides over the years towards becoming a more inclusive society.”
Billy (pictured above with NI legend David Healy) was also a founding member of the Allstars female football team in Ballymena and has recently played a key role in setting up a veterans team at Carniny in the Co Antrim town.
McDonald’s Fun Football Ambassador Pat Jennings said the awards provide a great opportunity to celebrate the fantastic work that takes place at all levels of the grassroots game in Northern Ireland.
“Each year when the awards come around, I am humbled by the dedication, passion and enthusiasm of our grassroots volunteers, but none more so than in 2020, which was an extremely challenging year for us all,” he added.
“The commitment shown by our volunteers throughout 2020 in allowing young people across Northern Ireland to continue playing during turbulent times demonstrates the very best of what McDonald’s grassroots football offers.
“I look forward to celebrating in person with the award nominees and winners in the near future when it is safe to do so.”
Online voting for the People’s Award 2020 has now opened. For more information and to place your vote, visit: https://www.irishfa.com/grassrootsfootballawards.