Gareth Sharvin never pictured it, but the Saul GAC Public Relations Officer (PRO) has claimed the Sport NI SportMaker Volunteer of the Year award!

The award is for a volunteer in a non-coaching or technical official role, who has made an outstanding contribution to the development of sport.

Gareth fits the description perfectly. The County Down man has helped Saul GAC build their presence in the local community through photography and match reports but also in grant applications for new facilities.

Sport NI presented the Saul PRO at the club with his award, something the local councillor was not expecting: “It’s a big surprise to be given this award considering the experience and knowledge of other volunteers right across sports.

“It is nice to be recognised not just for my club role of photography and press but also in the background doing grant applications, advising and making sure everything goes smoothly.

“We have new lights, a community trail, play park, we are doing our car park up, we got a new MUGA (Multi Use Games Area) and they are all grant applications that I had done.”

Gareth’s volunteering doesn’t stop at Saul GAC. He is also the president of Ballynagross Football Club where he secured funding for a new ground, helps at the local park run on a Saturday morning and sponsors several different sports clubs.

Gareth added: “Outside of that on a Friday or Saturday whether that be Gaelic, Soccer, Rugby, Cricket I am out volunteering taking photos and doing match reports.

“The reward you get from volunteering is one for yourself but also for the future. There are young kids using the facilities, we’ve built something that they can use and then hopefully it will be there for their own children.”

Club secretary Mark McGrath nominated Gareth for the award and shared why: “Gareth goes quietly about his business whereas some of us are always out, but he does so much behind the scenes.

“He does a lot of work for grant applications as we have had lots of development over the last few years and Gareth has been the main driving force behind that.

“We are a growing club and we need more space and facilities for the young people so we now have a MUGA and Gareth was instrumental in getting funding for that. We have future plans for the club and Gareth is the main person pushing that forward.”

Chairman of Saul GAC Eddie Harney added: “Gareth is the epitome of what a volunteer is and not just for the GAA but for the community. He’s always prepared to do the hard yards and the difficult jobs.

“The GAA is very much a family thing and Gareth’s family line nearly 100 years ago were winning county medals with Saul so it’s a very family orientated approach from Gareth and we are grateful for him.”

Antoinette McKeown, Sport NI Chief Executive, congratulated Gareth on his award: “There are many volunteers within sports clubs that may not step onto the playing field but without whom many clubs simply wouldn’t function.

“Gareth has shown incredible commitment to his club and community, giving up his spare time to stand on the touchline taking photos and writing match reports to promote the club as well as working hard to secure funding for new facilities.

“Congratulations Gareth – you are a SportMaker!”

The Sport NI SportMaker Awards give the sporting community the opportunity to showcase their achievements and give special thanks to coaches, officials and volunteers who work hard behind the scenes to make sport happen. There are 12 award categories recognising achievement at all levels of sports participation, from grassroots through to high performance.