THE North West has established itself as a hotbed for grassroots football with three award successes at the McDonald’s Irish FA Community Awards.
Football legends Pat Jennings, Sir Geoff Hurst, Ian Rush and Eric Harrison joined McDonald’s and the Irish FA in celebrating the local clubs, coaches and volunteers that make outstanding contributions to grassroots football and to local communities throughout Northern Ireland.
Gareth Connor began proceedings by collecting the Young Volunteer of the Year Award for his work with Institute FC and his volunteering at the Foyle Games Development Centre.
Ballymoor FC were then named the McDonald’s Irish FA Accredited Club of the Year Award, having grown from one team in 2003 to now boasting nine teams from all over the city, encompassing mixed religion, race and gender.
Finally the Outstanding Contribution Award went posthumously to Jon Clifford from Tristar FC who passed away after almost four decades of service to his beloved local club.
Frank Fleming, Tristar representative and nephew of Jon, commented: “It was an absolute honour to come here and receive this award on behalf of Jon.
“It’s sad that he’s no longer here but to have so many people recognise him this evening makes me very proud.”
Garry Matthewson from Tristar added: “It’s a huge night for Jon, for his family and the club; his contribution to grassroots football in Derry and beyond was immense.”
Pat Jennings attended and supported the event through his position as McDonald’s Head of Northern Ireland Football: “I’d like to congratulate all our winners from the North West and I’m delighted that once again the Irish FA and McDonald’s have recognised and rewarded the local people who do so much for grassroots football throughout Northern Ireland.
“The dedication, commitment and passion shown by the nominees and winners was truly inspirational; they provide the opportunity for young people to play the game in a fun, safe and controlled environment and it is only fitting that at McDonald’s we recognise their outstanding efforts.”
Former Liverpool and Wales legend Ian Rush also attended the awards event through his role as McDonald’s Head of Welsh Football: “It was a privilege to visit Belfast and help celebrate the local grassroots football heroes from across Northern Ireland.
“Through my role with McDonald’s I am heavily involved in grassroots football in Wales but it was great to meet and chat with the coaches, clubs and volunteers who work tirelessly for grassroots football throughout Northern Ireland.
“These people give so much for the game we all love and it is only right that we celebrate them.”
The McDonald’s Irish FA Awards are an important part of McDonald’s Official Community Partnership with the Irish FA, a partnership that is celebrating ten years and is helping young footballers shine.
This is delivering a lasting legacy for grassroots football through ongoing coach creation and education, through a series of regional Small Sided Games Centres and through a new Club Accreditation Scheme.
McDonald’s has also recently launched a new website dedicated to grassroots football, entitled McDonald’s KickStart, where local clubs can secure funding for development projects, get access to once-in-a-lifetime opportunities like your child’s chance to walk out as a Player Escort at Windsor Park and useful information on coaching or running a club.
For full details visit www.mcdonalds.co.uk/kickstart.