The Federation of Irish Sport announced on Tuesday the winners of the 2022 Volunteers in Sport Awards, proudly supported by the National Network of 29 Local Sports Partnerships. Two volunteers at basketball clubs have picked up awards - Paul McGibney of Kilrush Basketball Club in County Clare and Deborah Kelly-Long of East Coast Cavaliers in County Meath. The special guest speaker at the awards is Thomas Byrne, Minister of State with responsibility for Sport & Physical Education, which will take place on March 22nd at The Crowne Plaza Hotel, Blanchardstown and will see volunteers from all 32 counties honoured for their amazing dedication to volunteering across a variety of different sports.
The Volunteers in Sport Awards celebrate the contributions of the band of volunteers across the country who give their time to Irish sport and physical activity every year. This equates to approximately 37.3 million hours of volunteering across Ireland’s 13,000 registered sports clubs and associations and, according to Sport Ireland's 2021 'Researching the Value of Sport in Ireland' report, is worth an estimated €1.5bn to the exchequer.
Throughout December and early 2023 members of the public, sports clubs and governing bodies were invited to nominate an individual whose contribution to sport and physical activity in Ireland has made a real difference to their community, club, or county. Following a shortlisting process by the Selection Committee, the judging panel consisting of 9 individuals drawn from sports administration, academia, the volunteer community and media, and included former Director General of the GAA, Paraic Duffy, RTÉ Sports Broadcaster, Marie Crowe, Roddy Guiney, Chair WHPR and Clare McGrath, Chairperson of the Federation of Irish Sport.
In addition to the 32 county-level award winners, an overall Outstanding Achievement Award will be revealed at the awards celebration on the 22nd March.
Commenting on the awards, Minister of State for Sport and Physical Education, Thomas Byrne TD said:
“The volunteers being recognised today deserve enormous credit. Their work, often unseen and undertaken without any fuss or fanfare, makes sport a reality for hundreds if not thousands of people in their communities. In particular, the work of volunteers enables young people to play the sport that they love, to meet their friends and form lasting friendships. In so many ways, volunteers are the lifeblood of sport in this country, and I am privileged to have this opportunity to publicly acknowledge their vital contribution to Irish sport.”
Speaking about the importance of the awards, CEO of the Federation of Irish Sport, Mary O’Connor said:
“In every county throughout the country, clubs and sporting organisations facilitate multi-generational opportunities for people to be involved in sport and physically activity. The work and goodwill of sport volunteers across the country cannot be taken for granted... Every week in Ireland more than 450,000 volunteers bring sport and physical activity to life for our communities and it’s time we afford their hard work the recognition it deserves. It is therefore important that we showcase the size and scale of this contribution by bringing such volunteers together today at the Volunteers in Sport Awards with attendees from every county in the country to shine a spotlight on the positive work they do for sport and physical activity.”
CEO Sport Ireland, Dr. Una May commented: “I would like to congratulate all the winners at the Volunteers in Sport Awards. Sport Ireland and its network of Local Sports Partnerships are delighted to recognise the invaluable contribution of volunteers to the promotion of sport and physical activity in Ireland. The LSPs collaborate with and depend on the remarkable dedication of volunteers to create opportunities for all members of the community to participate in sport and physical activity. This ensures a culture where sport and physical activity is inclusive and accessible to everyone, regardless of their background or abilities. We are grateful for the inspiring efforts of the volunteers being celebrated today, and all volunteers across the country, who help us achieve this.”
Head of Louth Sports Partnership, Graham Russell said:”As the National Network of 29 Local Sports Partnerships, we are each individually committed to supporting volunteers in our local Clubs, sporting organisations and other non-sporting groups that assist in making opportunities available within their own communities for people to enjoy all forms of physically activity. We are privileged to see, first hand, the amazing work these people do, and we are all delighted to see these local volunteers getting recognition at National level.”