McDonald’s and the Irish FA have announced the regional winners of this year’s McDonald’s Irish FA Grassroots Football Awards.
The annual awards, which celebrate 23 years in Northern Ireland this year, recognise the 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.
The national awards ceremony of the McDonald’s Irish FA Grassroots Football Awards is due to take place next month at Belfast City Hall.
The regional awards event was hosted last week at The National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, where Northern Ireland legend and Fun Football Ambassador Pat Jennings presented the winners with their trophies.
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.
“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.”
McDonald’s franchisee John McCollum added: “McDonald’s is passionate about feeding and fostering communities and supporting local families, and our commitment to grassroots football is a great way for us to demonstrate that.
“The Grassroots Football Awards gives us a great opportunity to celebrate our local grassroots football heroes, who are the beating heart of the game we all love here in Northern Ireland. Congratulations to the winners.”
This year regional winner titles were awarded in three different categories: ‘Wes Gregg Coach of the Year’, ‘Volunteer of the Year’ and ‘Junior Club of the Year’.
The regional winners of ‘Wes Gregg Coach of the Year’ are:
• Ameer Ibrahim, Multi-Ethnic Sports and Cultures NI (MSCNI)
• Owen Murray, Derry City Ladies FC
• Chris Dales, Dungoyne FC
• Bally McGoran, Ballynahinch Olympic FC
• Lewis Loughlin, Mountjoy United Juniors FC
The regional winners of ‘Volunteer of the Year’ are:
• Scot Nelson, Antrim Rovers FC
• Melanie McElhinney, Dungiven Celtic FC
• Elaine Crossman, Albert Foundry FC Academy
• Elle Haskins, Comber Rec Ladies FC
• Malcolm Weir, Sands United FC
The regional winners of ‘Junior Club of the Year’ are:
• Glens United FC
• Rosario FC
• Lisburn Rangers Boys Youth Academy
• Riverdale Youth FC
Last year McDonald’s launched its new Fun Football programme, which will provide over one million 5–11-year-olds 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.
Image: Ruth Boyle (Rosario FC), James Thompson (Director of Foundation, Irish FA Foundation), Lewis Loughlin (Mountjoy United Juniors), Fun Football Ambassador Pat Jennings, Ameer Ibrahim (MSCNI), McDonald’s franchisee John McCollum and Melanie McElhinney of Dungiven Celtic at the regional awards ceremony.