IWA-Sport Para Athletics manager and Head Coach, Pat Furlong, has been recognized at the 2021 Volunteers in Sport Awards from Federation of Irish Sports.

The Volunteers in Sport Awards celebrate the contributions of the band of volunteers across the country who give their time to Irish sport and physical activity every year. This equates to approximately 37.3 million hours of volunteering across Ireland’s 13,000 registered sports clubs and associations and, according to Sport Ireland’s 2021 ‘Researching the Value of Sport in Ireland’ report is worth an estimated €1.5bn to the exchequer.

Throughout September and October members of the public, sports clubs and governing bodies were invited to nominate an individual whose contribution to sport and physical activity in Ireland has made a real difference to their community, club or county.

If I did not have so many fantastic volunteers working with me over all the years I could not achieve anything and I would probably have retired years ago

Pat was nominated and recognized for all his work through IWA-Sport Para Athletics. Over the years, Pat has put in tremendous work coaching and mentoring athletes from across the country. A number of these athletes have gone on to win events at Local, National and International levels including the Paralympics. Pat first became involved with IWA-Sport when his daughter competed in the Paralympics 1996.

Pat has been dedicated to the promotion and long term involvement of athletes in para-athletics while continuously ensuring the development of new athletes who wish to become involved. The Wexford native has travelled short and long distances to ensure his athletes get the opportunity to compete at both national and international levels. He is a role model for other sports leaders and has enabled the growth of para-athletics to where it is today.

A delighted Pat said:

“I was delighted to receive the award but I would consider this as a Section award rather than a personal award. If I did not have so many fantastic volunteers working with me over all the years I could not achieve anything and I would probably have retired years ago.

“Over the years we have had a constant supply of volunteers giving great service to our Para Athletics Section and they have enabled so many athletes of all ages and standards to take part in Para-Athletics, make lots of new friends, even do some travelling and be considered as an athlete in their own right and put them on a par with their siblings and friends.

“I consider this award as a section award recognising the contribution of all our volunteers and also the support of IWA Sport and their staff.”

The nominations and award recipients were selected by a judging panel consisting of 12 individuals drawn from sports administration, the volunteer community and media, and included former Director-General of the GAA, Paraic Duffy, RTÉ broadcaster, Marie Crowe and CEO of Gaisce, Yvonne McKenna.

The awards, organised by Federation of Irish Sport & supported by EBS, will take place virtually on December 7th, 8th and 9th and will see volunteers from all 32 counties honoured for their amazing dedication to volunteering across a variety of different sports.

Pat will receive his award during a ceremony to be streamed live online on December 7th from 7pm. You can view the award giving by clicking here (Facebook)

Commenting on the awards, Minister of State for Sport and the Gaeltacht, Jack Chambers, TD, said:

“It is an honour for me to support this year’s Volunteers in Sport Awards and help recognise so many fantastic volunteers in our community. These awards have a special place in the sporting calendar as they recognise those who have given an incredible amount of time throughout the year who have ensured that sport can takes place in our communities, and they do so without the expectation of gratitude or reward.

“The amount of hard work and dedication that these volunteers give to sport in Ireland is quite truly astonishing and I am privileged to support both the volunteers and these awards. I would also like to thank the Federation of Irish Sport and EBS, and all who will help make these virtual ceremonies a memorable occasion for all.”

Speaking about the awards, CEO of the Federation of Irish Sport, Mary O’Connor said:

“Despite another very challenging year for sport, we have once again seen how important volunteering has been to communities across Ireland. We have an enormous amount of gratitude for the army of volunteers who have ensured that sport could take place in a safe and controlled manner.

“Whether it be on pitches, courts, tracks, pools or even community halls across the country, the volunteers are always there to make sure sport and physical activity continues to take place around Ireland. It gives me immense pride to be able to recognise so many of these volunteers at next week’s virtual Volunteers in Sport Awards and I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to all of this year’s recipients.

“I would like to also thank EBS for their continued support in bringing wider recognition of volunteers in sport in Ireland to life. I would also like to express my gratitude to Minister Jack Chambers who will be taking the time out of his schedule to attend our virtual ceremonies next week and helping us to champion and celebrate the recipients.”

Managing Director of EBS, Paul Butler, commented:

“EBS is delighted to partner with the Federation of Irish Sport once more to honour and recognise the everyday heroes around Ireland who make sure sport happens every day. EBS has been involved in local communities around Ireland for over 80 years and we are delighted to showcase the tremendous work these volunteers do for sport throughout their communities.

“These volunteers truly are the backbone of Irish sport, and we are proud to support them. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the recipients of the 2021 Volunteers in Sports Awards and thank them for all of the tireless work they do to ensure sport in Ireland continues to flourish.”