GAA clubs, schools and volunteers - tell us your story
AS ST Patrick's Day approaches, a major date in the calendar for clubs and schools with the senior Club All-Ireland and Ulster Colleges finals taking place, it is fitting that we launch the Irish News School, Club and Volunteer Awards.
Now in their 14th year, the accolades have gone from strength-to-strength and recognise the hard work that goes on in every club and school, especially the voluntary effort that allows teams to field throughout the year and create the communities in every parish across the province.
So why not enter and tell us your story? We want to hear about those people without whom you know your club could not function; about those who go above and beyond the call of duty; about what makes your club the special place that it is.
The awards, which are open to clubs and schools in all nine counties of Ulster, recognise and reward the extraordinary contribution made to the GAA by clubs' schools and individual volunteers, whose work is often unsung but nevertheless essential to the running of every club.
Entries are judged in three main categories - small, medium and large - for both clubs and their volunteers and we also reward the contribution of younger club members through the Young Volunteer Award within the volunteer category. In addition, the promotion of our games in schools at primary and secondary level is recognised through the Primary and Post-Primary School awards.
And we once again have the Overseas Club of the Year category, which was introduced last year. The aim of this new award is to highlight the growth of Gaelic games outside Ireland in tandem with the increasing role GAA clubs play in the life of Irish populations around the globe. Last year, there were entries from Buenos Aires to Sydney to Singapore.
John Brolly, Irish News marketing manager, urged clubs to highlight what they feel is worthy of recognition within their own clubs: "I would really encourage all clubs to enter as every club has a story to tell and there is a great opportunity to highlight even a single great initiative you have undertaken in our Club Initiative of the Year," he said.
"Clubs do undertake worthwhile initiatives as a service to their membership, such as trying to get all their non-playing members fit and healthy. Take this opportunity to tell us about the good things you are doing."
Irish News sports editor Thomas Hawkins added: "The launch of the Irish News School, Club and Volunteer Awards always generates great excitement. All those who put in entries really give it their best shot.
"It draws a great response year after year and the efforts they put in are to be commended. Everyone who enters gets into the spirit of the project and my thanks too to all the sponsors - O'Neill's sportswear, 3fivetwo group, the Wellington Park Hotel and Volunteer Now - for coming on board with the initiative. There's a real buzz about it once again."
Meanwhile, newly-elected president of the Ulster Council Michael Hasson has spoken of the important work which the awards honour: "The Irish News Club and Volunteer Awards honour club members who continually work to improve the lives of people within their GAA clubs and communities," he said.
"The Irish News awards show appreciation of life-long commitment. The introduction of an Overseas Award last year was a worthy development, with entries coming from all across the globe. It is heartening to see the great work of the GAA being replicated in our clubs across the world.
"The awards also reward schools, who continue to promote Gaelic games and culture within their activities. Strong club-school links are essential to enable the GAA to thrive and we are delighted that schools get their rightful recognition for the role they play in promoting our games and culture."
The winner in each club category will be awarded £1,000, £1,000 in O'Neill's Sportswear vouchers and a full-page profile in the sports section of The Irish News. The runner-up in each category will be awarded £500.
Winners in the Overseas Club of the Year and Club Initiative of the Year categories will receive a new set of O'Neill's jerseys. The winner in each volunteer category will win a £100 Irish News Holiday voucher plus £100 in O'Neill's Sportswear vouchers.
Entry packs will be posted out to every club and school in Ulster this week and more can be ordered by emailing email@example.com. The closing time and date for applications is midday on Friday, April 22 2016.