The inaugural Sports Inspire Awards ceremony took place at Belfast’s Crowne Plaza Hotel, bringing the leading sporting bodies in Northern Ireland together to recognise and celebrate the positive impact of volunteering.
The event was part of the Department for Communities programme Sport - A Home for Lifelong Volunteering, which is run in conjunction with Ulster GAA, Ulster Rugby and the Irish FA.
Compered by the BBC’s Thomas Niblock, in front of an audience of 200 people, the ceremony paid tribute to young volunteers - all aged between 16 and 24 - from each of the three sports who were commended for 50, 100 and 200 hours of volunteering at their clubs.
Keynote speakers included Irish FA Board member Cheryl Lamont CBE, Diarmaid Marsden (Ulster GAA) and Eliza Downey (Ulster Rugby), who reflected on their own volunteering stories and the valuable contribution that volunteering has made to their lives, followed by a panel session involving Stevie Watson (Irish FA), Aimee Hughes (Ulster GAA) and Emily Millar (Ulster Rugby).
Irish FA President Conrad Kirkwood said: “As a volunteer myself I know that this work can bring so many positive benefits to people’s lives.
“This event crystallised all that is good about volunteering and will no doubt encourage those in attendance to follow in the footsteps of the incredible young people we were there to support. On a personal note Stevie Watson was a real highlight for me. He spoke so well and is a credit to the Irish FA.”
Congratulating the young people involved in the Sports Inspire Awards programme, Ulster GAA President Ciaran McLaughlin said: “It is great to see so many young people playing a full and active role within their sports clubs. This programme highlights the contribution young people can make to sport by not only playing our games but by participating through volunteering.
“I warmly congratulate all the young people who have achieved their various levels of hours and I have no doubt that their volunteering experience in sport will contribute to their own personal development in terms of preparing them for university and job applications.
“Our clubs also greatly benefit from having young enthusiastic volunteers who bring their own skills and knowledge to our clubs.”