Sports and Recreation

Aideen Dowling

Special Olympics Leinster, Kildare.

Aideen has been involved with Special Olympics for the last 18 years. She started out with the organisation as a general volunteer at sport events taking on the role of staging assistant. She then progressed onto a time keeper role and subsequently obtained her swimming qualifications to become a swimming official. She is now an accomplished swimming coach and regularly takes on lead event management roles at swimming events.

She has been involved in over 50 different sporting events.  Aideen not only supports the events by volunteering at them but she also offers expert advice and support to clubs for any swimming related queries. She supports coaches by visiting their clubs and offering coach education, training and advice. Aideen has attended several Special Olympics Ireland Games as Coach Chaperone and took on the role of Head Coach for the Special Olympics European Games which took place in Belgium in 2014. She proved to be a great asset to the delegation and was invited to take on the role of Competition Manager for Swimming in the 2018 Ireland Games. Yet again she made a great impression and was invited to take on the role of Head Coach for the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi in 2019.

Through her role as tutor she shares her wealth of knowledge with other volunteers before they become coaches themselves. No matter whether Aideen is in a competition manager role or a tutor role, she always ensures that she is empowering other volunteers to take the lead at events.

Martin Quinn

Canon Hayes Recreation Centre, Tipperary.

Martin Quinn has been a volunteer with the Canon Hayes Recreation Centre since its inception in 1987. He joined the voluntary management committee prior to the opening of the Centre in September 1987 and has held every officership role throughout those 32 years. The Centre gives employment and caters for a wide audience of users from all walks of life. In his role with the Centre, Martin initiated the Canon Hayes Sports Scholarships in 1996, which encourages and develops the sporting skills of talented young people from the greater Tipperary area and number amongst the recipients the former Muster & Ireland rugby star, Alan Quinlan.

His work with the Centre and with other organisations such as the GAA, Youth Clubs, Parish Councils, Special Olympics, Muintir na Tíre, South Tipperary Sports Partnership and Tipperary International Peace Convention is testament to his volunteerism and earned him the title ‘Mr. Volunteer’ in the local area.

Martin suffered a major stroke in 2013 from which he made a great recovery. However as a result of the stroke he was forced to give up his employment. However this has given him a greater perspective on disability issues and has shown him what it is like to cope with a disability both from a functional and financial perspective. As a result Martin gives a lot of his time in advocating on issues relating to stroke and disability and he regularly speaks at events organised by the Irish Heart Foundation and other health related bodies.

Azeez Yusuff

Sport Against Racism Ireland, Dublin.

Azeez Yusuff is a remarkable young man who has emerged from the Asylum Process to become a Sports Coach and a Youth Leader on three programmes of the NGO Charity,  Sport Against Racism Ireland. As a ‘Refugee in Waiting’ in the asylum process, with no English on his arrival in the Irish Republic, he struggled against racism and Islamophobia and was supported nurtured through the coaching and youth ranks of SARI to become Head Sports Coach of the organisation.

The young Nigerian born footballer has made a major impact on the unaccompanied minors on Soccernites, working with young boys many of whom have been trafficked into the country from conflict zones. In this key volunteer role, given his own background, he shows great empathy with his young charges and places the duty of care of the vulnerable youngsters by prioritising their physical and mental health welfare  and engaging them in an employability programme. As coach of the Hijabs and Hat Tricks programme, he has acted as a tutor and mentor for three of the young Muslim girls who have now become coaches and youth leaders themselves. His work with the national Football v Discrimination schools programme has produced a major impact on the Human Rights learning for young people that helps to eliminate bullying through racism, homophobia, Islamophobia and sexism.

He is totally dedicated to using the medium of sport to tackle all forms of discrimination and for the cultural integration and social inclusion of young alienated and marginalised people.