Pat Hayes

Clonmel Town FC

Co. Tipperary 

Pat Hayes has been volunteering with Clonmel Town FC for over 15 years.

“There are so many parts of my volunteering role at Clonmel Town FC that I enjoy,” Pat says, “But my favourites would be seeing the happy faces on the kids at the end of training sessions, and the sense of satisfaction that I get from keeping so many boys and girls actively playing sport for as long as possible. People ask me why I give up so much of my time to the club and my answer is simple. As long as I get more out of the club than I put in then continuing with the club is a no brainer”

Pat joined Clonmel Town Football Club over 15 years ago to help train/coach the schoolboys. In 2014, Pat took on the role of Chairman of the Schoolboys section, quickly establishing the Junior Academy and was instrumental in introducing schoolgirls teams. In 2022 a total of 515 boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 16 were actively playing soccer with Clonmel Town.

Pat dedicates a huge amount of time to his coaching role and his position as Club Chairman. He has been a recipient of Clonmel Town FC’s ‘Club Person of the Year’ award twice in the past, in recognition of his dedication to the club.

Pat coordinates all the club’s 48 coaches/managers, ensuring they have the required qualifications and safeguarding training, and are Garda vetted. He coordinates the training schedule and supply of the footballs and training gear for each team. He lines the pitches, puts up nets, and ensures the facilities are up to standard for all games.

“With Pat as a Chairman/Coach, the club has won many League and Cup titles over the years,” say his Clonmel Town FC colleagues. “But his achievements are more accurately measured by the benefits to the young people he coaches. He encourages healthy and active lifestyles among the players, and passes on knowledge and experience to them to be the best they can be, and to realise their potential. Pat has an enormous impact on the lives of these young people.

“Pat epitomises all that is good in amateur sport. Total commitment, dedication, leadership, and friendship.”

Gwen Maher

Cumann Báire Setanta

Co. Dublin

Gwen Maher has been volunteering as a coach and mentor with Cumann Báire Setanta GAA Club for over eight years.

“I love it when a child learns a new skill and I see the smile on their face,” Gwen says. “Or when a parent tells me their child can’t wait for the next training session.”

Cumann Báire Setanta is known as the ‘Beag le croí ollmhor’ and they say their motto applies to Gwen as well: “She’s a small lady with a huge heart. There’s no one role or word that describes what Gwen does for our club. She’s a mentor, coach, member of the club executive, referee coordinator, GAA summer camp and Easter camp coordinator, event planner, and camogie team FLO.

“She also helps out in the club bar when needed, leads the fundraising committee for the juvenile section, and washes jerseys!

“She does so much more beyond this list. She is truly the heartbeat of the club. She even somehow finds the time to be our senior team goalkeeper alongside all of this!

“Gwen is the perfect role model for all of the juveniles in our club. She makes others feel better by doing the little things – leading by example, making others feel part of the team, and making kids feel like they matter.

“We’re a club in a well-documented disadvantaged part of Dublin. Children from our area experience difficulties and issues that others may not. Gwen’s presence in their lives is crucial to keeping them in sport and connected to the club.

“It’s well recognised that it’s harder to keep girls engaged in sport, especially in their teens. Gwen has singlehandedly reduced by 50% the amount of the girls who would have left the club. These young women admire and look up to her.

“She also supports the development of our young players off the pitch, looking at ways to include them in our community and develop their life skills.

“Gwen’s helpful, caring, resourceful nature shines through in everything she does, and she’s always happy to help out.”

Mick Toner

Drogheda Town FC

Co. Louth

Retired Garda Mick Toner has been volunteering with Drogheda Town FC for 50 years:

“I thoroughly enjoy the involvement in the community,” Mick says, “And offering facilities for the younger generations to participate in sports.”

In his role as Chairperson, Mick dedicates long hours to the issues of running a club, such as paying bills, dealing with banks and insurance, and seeking support and funding to keep the club going. Mick is motivated by a drive to make a positive impact in the community.

Drogheda FC engages almost 300 children. Adults play for the club as well, and many local groups use the club’s grounds and clubhouse.

“Every second person in Drogheda knows Mick,” say his Drogheda Town FC colleagues.

“He looks to help club members on and off the pitch. Mention his name in Drogheda and you’ll get a warm response. You’ll have better luck finding gold on the streets of Drogheda than finding somebody with a bad word to say about Mick. This a testament to the positive impact he’s had on the lives of people in Drogheda and beyond, over many years, both as a Garda and a volunteer.

“Our evolution as a club is ahead of much bigger clubs, owing to Mick’s vision. For example, the volunteer-led development of the clubhouse and grounds. His vision was to create a community hub which would benefit both young and old. A venue that would compare favourably with any community centre in the country and help instil a sense of pride locally.

“Mick is 70 now and each day he piles his energy into helping others. As Chairperson of Drogheda Town FC, he’s busy every day. The role is not merely 9 to 5, it’s 24/7.”

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