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Thursday 21 Mar 2024
Sports Inspire Awards celebrate volunteering

The leading sporting bodies in Northern Ireland have joined together to recognise and celebrate the positive impact of young people who volunteer within their respective sports.

More than 300 people packed into the Mac Theatre in Belfast for the annual Sports Inspire Awards ceremony organised jointly by the Irish Football Association, Ulster GAA and Ulster Rugby to celebrate volunteering in sport.

 Dozens of volunteers aged 14 to 24 took to the stage to receive their Sports Inspire Awards for completing 50, 100 or 200 hours volunteering in sport. 

MC for the evening was the BBC NI sports presenter Thomas Niblock, who was joined on stage by John Cooney (Ulster Rugby), Brendan Rogers (Derry GAA) and Bobby Burns (Glentoran). 

The high profile players gave an insight into how volunteers have helped them in their sports careers and the importance of volunteering in sport, especially for young people. 

Irish hockey legend Katie Mullan also participated in a conversation about her career in sport, including the highs and the lows, and how volunteering impacts on players and teams and helps to drive success both on and off the pitch. 

Irish FA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson said: “It is so uplifting to come here to this event which brings together young people from across the three sports to celebrate their volunteering contribution.  

“We call it the Sports Inspire Awards programme because that is exactly what it is, inspiring young people doing good in their own communities. 

“I congratulate all the clubs involved, and for providing volunteering opportunities for young people aged 14 to 24. Not only do the clubs benefit from the skills, energy and knowledge of the young volunteers, but the young people also benefit from developing their own skills and talents which will serve them well in further education or their future careers.”

Ulster GAA President Ciaran McLaughlin said he loved attending the event each year.

He pointed out: “It showcases the huge impact young people are making in their clubs and communities through volunteering in sport. Listening to the young volunteers about what they do and why they volunteer their time and skills to sport is really inspiring.

“Too often our younger generation get bad press, but these young people are showing the true impact they make every day, building better sports clubs and providing positive outlets for their communities to enjoy spectating and participation in sport. Well done to all the young people and clubs involved in this worthy programme.”

Denis Gardiner, Ulster Rugby President, was also full of praise for the awards programme, which is organised as part of the partnership funded by Department for Communities through its Sport - A Home for Lifelong Volunteering initiative and is supported by the Community Foundation.

He said: “The partnership between Ulster Rugby, the Irish FA and Ulster GAA is so important and through events like this we see the great work that is being done by the three governing bodies to promote volunteering in sport.  

“We are very grateful for the continued support of the Department for Communities and the Community Fund which allows us to continue to develop volunteer programmes that are meaningful and impactful. 

“It is hugely inspiring to see The Mac full of young people who are stepping up and helping out in their local sports clubs, making them a better place to be. I congratulate all the young people who have achieved their awards and I also thank the clubs involved in this programme for providing those vital opportunities.”

 Anyone interested in getting involved in the programme should contact:

Irish FA:

Ulster GAA:

Ulster Rugby: