Grassroots Football Awards: Meet one of the previous winners

Shaun Oneill

Reporter:

Shaun Oneill

Email:

sport@ballymenaguardian.co.uk

Thursday 30 June 2022 11:21

The McDonald’s Irish FA Grassroots Football  Awards celebrate 22 years in Northern Ireland this year.

The annual awards recognise the incredible 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.

Over the past few years there have been some particularly inspirational winners, given the challenges presented by the global pandemic. In this article, we celebrate some of the previous grassroots football heroes we have had the privilege of meeting.

Ballymena man Billy O’Flaherty is a previous winner of the prestigious People’s Award which celebrates the outstanding contribution made by an individual to football in their local community and beyond. 

Billy is a founding member of Carniny Amateur and Youth Football Club in Ballymena and is widely regarded as a football stalwart in the Mid-Antrim area having been involved in grassroots football for over four decades.

He was awarded an MBE for his work in the local community and has had many responsibilities on and off the football pitch – from secretary and committee member to coach.

Just last week he was presented with a merit award from the Ballymena Saturday Morning League for over 30 years’ service on the League Committee.

He said: “Local football has been one of the best tools for cross-community relations in Northern Ireland and we must not underestimate that. Football is often the common denominator that brings people from all walks of life together, which has helped us take great strides over the years towards becoming a more inclusive society.”

In this year’s awards there are seven categories: Young Volunteer of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, Wes Gregg Coach of the Year, Club of the Year, the Futsal Award, the Football for All Award and the People’s Award.

Nominations close on Thursday, 30 June, with regional award winners set to be announced throughout August.

The official awards ceremony is due to take place in The National Stadium at Windsor Park on 24 September prior to Northern Ireland’s UEFA Nations League game against Kosovo.

Northern Ireland legend and McDonald’s Fun Football Ambassador Pat Jennings piled praise on the many volunteers who deliver grassroots football across Northern Ireland.

"Without grassroots football volunteers none of this could happen," he said. “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.”

For more information or to nominate your 2022 grassroots football hero visit http://www.irishfa.com/grassrootsfootballawards.

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