The winners of the McDonald’s Irish FA Grassroots Football Awards for 2022 were announced at an awards ceremony at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park ahead of Saturday’s UEFA Nations League game against Kosovo.
Hosted by well known sports journalist and broadcaster Claire McCollum, the event featured a raft of high profile ambassadors including World Cup winner Sir Geoff Hurst as well as Northern Ireland great Pat Jennings and Julie Nelson, the first Northern Ireland senior women’s team player to win 100 caps.
The annual McDonald’s Irish FA Grassroots Football Awards, which celebrate 22 years in Northern Ireland this year, recognise the unbelievable 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.
Almost 600 entries were received from across Northern Ireland, across eight awards categories: Football Restaurant of the Year; Football for All Award; Futsal Award; Young Volunteer of the Year; Volunteer of the Year; Wes Gregg Coach of the Year; Club of the Year and the People’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to Grassroots Football.
The 2022 winners in each category were:
- McDonald’s Lurgan – Football Restaurant of the Year
- St Malachy’s Old Boys Youth (Belfast) – Football for All Award
- Omagh Futsal Club – Futsal Award
- Charlie Rush (Castle Juniors, Bangor) – Young Volunteer of the Year
- Malcolm Hanna (Dromara Village, Co Down) – Volunteer of the Year
- Chris Finlay (Ballymacash Rangers, Lisburn) – Wes Gregg Coach of the Year
- Lisburn Rangers Ladies – Club of the Year
- Gerry Doherty (Foyle Harps, Derry/Londonderry) – People’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to Grassroots Football
Irish FA President Conrad Kirkwood congratulated the winners and said he was thrilled to welcome them to the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. It was the first time the awards ceremony had been held at the home of Northern Ireland football.
He pointed out: “Our mission at the Irish FA is to promote, foster and develop football for all in Northern Ireland, and the work that these volunteers do year in, year out is nothing short of incredible.
“It is right that we recognise their achievements and champion them and their football clubs who are the beating heart of the sport here in Northern Ireland.”
Former Premier League and Northern Ireland goalkeeper Roy Carroll also praised the many volunteers who give up their time year-on-year to help deliver grassroots football across Northern Ireland.
He said: "I think it is really important that the volunteers at our local clubs, who are the champions of grassroots football in Northern Ireland, are recognised at these awards.”
Apart from being a partner for the annual grassroots awards, McDonald’s also works with the Irish FA and the Irish FA Foundation on various coaching and activity programmes.
Recently McDonald’s celebrated the launch of its new Fun Football programme which will provide over one million five to 11-year-olds with the opportunity to enjoy free football coaching across the UK.
The new programme will deliver over 10.5 million hours of Fun Football over the course of the next four years, making it the largest grassroots participation programme in the UK. The programme will be delivered in collaboration with the Irish FA, Scottish FA, The Football Association of Wales and a network of national coaching providers in England.
Roy Carroll added: “The McDonald’s Fun Football programme makes football accessible for children of all genders, abilities and backgrounds, and plays a key role in promoting the positive impact sport and exercise can have on people’s physical and mental health and wellbeing.”
And McDonald’s Fun Football Ambassador Pat Jennings said: "Without grassroots football volunteers none of this could happen.
“Through the years I have witnessed first hand the significant impact that McDonald’s Fun Football has had, and continues to have, on the lives of young people in Northern Ireland.”