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Mayo women honoured at Volunteers in Sport Awards


Swim Ireland’s Mary Dunne from Ballina was honoured last week with the ‘Outstanding Contribution’ Award at the Volunteers in Sport Awards, hosted by the Federation of Irish Sport in partnership with EBS.
The Outstanding Contribution Award honours a volunteer who has consistently given up their time for a sport, a team, or an event over many years. Mary has exemplified a commitment to sport and community work through her many years of involvement in Ballina Dolphin’s Swimming Club and the Connacht region for Swim Ireland.
Mary is a former Chairperson and Treasurer of Connacht swimming.  She also served on the Swim Ireland Board of Directors for four years and was nominated as Honorary President of Swim Ireland in 2016. During this time, she played a central role in implementing a new code of governance in Swim Ireland, putting Swim Ireland at the forefront of good governance practise. In recent years, she has been instrumental in revitalising the River Moy Open Water Swim in Ballina.
According to Mary McMorrow, Director of Operations of Swim Ireland: “Mary is a great ambassador for swimming and the ultimate role model when it comes to volunteering. Nothing is ever too much trouble. If she can’t help you, she will find someone who can. She is a rock of sense. She doesn’t recognise barriers but sees them as temporary obstacles to be overcome and will always find a way to get things done. She has been a driving force in her club, and her love for swimming is infectious and her enthusiasm is endless. She is the ‘go to’ person for her club and indeed for the Connacht region for all matters swimming related. At the heart of everything Mary does is the ‘swimmer’.”
According to Sarah Keane, CEO of Swim Ireland: “Without people like Mary sport simply could not function, but it is the sheer extent of her involvement across so many different areas that make her so deserving of Sports Volunteer of the Year. Her impact stretches across so many levels from participation to performance. She is the driving force behind her club, a committed volunteer to her region and one of the key ‘go to’ people in the organisation.”
Previous winners of the Outstanding Contribution Award include Liam Sheedy, who managed Tipperary to All Ireland Senior success in 2010; Oliver O’Neill, youth coach and father of Olympic boxer Darren O’Neill; and Dublin City Marathon organiser Jim Aughney.

SinÉad McGrath from Ballinrobe was also honoured at the awards in Farmleigh House Dublin. Sinéad received the Mayo Sports Volunteer of the Year Award for her commitment to Ballinrobe Riding Club. The award was presented by Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin, TD. 
Sinéad has been described as someone who changes lives through her passion, smile and supportive nature. Despite devoting countless hours of volunteering with Ballinrobe Riding Club and in dressage across the western region, the Ballinrobe woman said she was ‘shocked’ with her nomination and subsequent win of the award.  
The Volunteers in Sport Awards were created to recognise the contributions, commitment and dedication of the 450,000 volunteers who give their time to Irish sport each year. This equates to approximately 37.3 million hours of volunteering across Ireland’s 14,000 registered sports clubs and associations. A total of 34 awards were presented at the ceremony, including 32 county-level awards.
Sport matters
Commenting at the awards, Mary O’Connor, CEO of the Federation of Irish Sport, said:
“Sport matters. It contributes to our health, binds us together as a community and supports the economy, while bringing a sense of pride to us all. This would not be possible without the volunteers who share their time and expertise on pitches, tracks, gym floors and swimming pools across the country each and every week.  To this end, the Volunteers in Sport Awards is an opportunity to recognise and celebrate these volunteers. I would like to extend my congratulations to all our award nominees as we celebrate their contribution to sport across Ireland today.”
Also speaking at the awards, Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin TD said: “It was a real honour for me to attend the Volunteers in Sport Awards. As somebody who has been involved in sport at an amateur level since I was a child myself, I have always marvelled at the commitment that so many club members show to their communities up and down the country. It is a real privilege to recognise the contribution made by those who do so much for others in fulfilling the less glamourous but most definitely vital and often overlooked tasks involved in almost any sport you can imagine. The men and women honoured today may not be household names across the country but in their own communities they are real treasures. I was delighted to speak to many of them today. My thanks to the Federation of Irish Sport and all those who made this ceremony such a memorable occasion for all the recipients.”

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