The winners of this year’s McDonald’s Irish FA Grassroots Football Awards have been crowned at the national awards ceremony at Belfast City Hall.
The annual awards, which celebrate 23 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.
Northern Ireland hero Pat Jennings and Arsenal legend Martin Keown, both McDonald’s Fun Football Ambassadors, were among the star-studded line-up of guests at the event.
Martin Keown said: “The annual Grassroots Awards give us a brilliant opportunity to celebrate the local grassroots heroes who truly are the beating heart of the beautiful game we all love.
“Without them grassroots football wouldn’t be the same and our children wouldn’t have a sporting environment in which to thrive and flourish. It’s important that we acknowledge their significant contribution at events such as these. Congratulations to all of the winners and nominees.”
He added: “A career in football or any sport starts at grassroots level, so it’s brilliant to see the huge impact McDonald’s and the Irish FA make in communities right across Northern Ireland through the Fun Football programme.
“Football is a sport for all. It is so important to encourage all young people to give it a go – regardless of their background or age, their gender, or their natural ability for the sport. It’s great to see a big brand like McDonald’s championing grassroots football for all.”
Long-term McDonald’s Fun Football Ambassador Pat Jennings also heaped praise on the award winners and nominees and said that without grassroots volunteers none of this would be possible.
He pointed out: “Having been a Fun Football Ambassador for almost 20 years now, 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.
“It was fantastic to see McDonald’s recently announcing that 250,000 children from across the UK had benefitted from Fun Football in less than a year since the new programme launched.
“On a more local level I have also seen the crucial support that the McDonald’s franchisees from across Northern Ireland have provided to local grassroots football clubs, be that kits or essential football equipment, or even by hosting community events. It’s very encouraging to see, and long may it continue.”
Last year McDonald’s launched its new Fun Football programme, which will provide over one million kids aged 5 to 11 with the opportunity to enjoy free football coaching across the UK.
The programme will deliver more than 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.
2023 AWARD WINNERS
Amateur Club of the Year - Belfast Swifts FC
Football Restaurant of the Year - McDonald’s restaurants in north Belfast – Abbey Centre, Shore Road and Glengormley
Young Volunteer of the Year - Lewis McKinley (Lurgan Town FC, Co Armagh)
Futsal Award - Adam Carson (North Down Futsal League)
Football for All Award - Jim McCracken (Antrim and Newtownabbey Disability FC)
Volunteer of the Year - Elaine Crossman (Albert Foundry FC Academy, Belfast)
Junior Club of the Year - Glens United FC (Carnlough/Glenarm, Co Antrim)
Wes Gregg Coach of the Year - Chris Dales (Dungoyne FC, Belfast)
People’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to Grassroots Football - Jude McLaughlin (Dungiven Celtic FC, Co Londonderry)