There were celebrations at North Down Hockey Club when Amy Jones received the prestigious SportMaker Young Technical Official of the Year award.

Amy, an up-and-coming hockey umpire, was surprised by a Sport NI film crew who captured the moment she was told of her win during a mid-week training session.

Sport NI’s annual SportMaker awards recognise the unsung sporting heroes who help make sport happen and gives the sporting community the opportunity to showcase their achievements and give special thanks to coaches, officials and volunteers who work tirelessly behind the scenes.

There are 12 award categories recognising achievement at all levels of sports participation, from grassroots through to high performance.

The Young Technical Official award recognises the important work carried out by an up-and-coming referee, umpire and /or official and the contribution which they make to their sport.

Amy started umpiring on Saturdays for her local club when there was a shortage of umpires and since then she hasn’t looked back.

SportMaker judges were impressed with Amy’s quick progression to umpiring at the highest club level in Ireland and her commitment to developing herself and other young umpires through the Ulster Hockey Young Umpires Programme.

Julie Fisher from North Down Hockey Club has known Amy for years and helped the Sport NI team surprise her with the award award: “We are super proud of Amy here at North Down for winning this prestigious award.

“Through the Young Umpires Programme at Ulster Hockey she is encouraging a lot of young teenagers to take the whistle up and give them a wee bit of confidence and some tips and words of wisdom.

“It is so important that people get involved in umpiring and the younger the better. There are such wonderful opportunities out there and really at the end of the day a game cannot take place without two umpires on a pitch.”

Speaking after the SportMaker presentation Amy said: “It feels overwhelming. I wasn’t expecting it at all and I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet! I am so grateful, and I am standing here tonight with the award but to be honest it’s not just me. There is a whole team behind me at club level, Ulster and Irish level that has got me to this point.”

Amy’s love for hockey is her motivation, “I think hockey is a great sport and it has provided me with friends who are going to be lifelong friends. It is such a support network and without umpiring games don’t go ahead. I think that was the main driver, I want hockey to run and if games can go ahead and if I can do something to facilitate that then I will pick up a whistle. I also really enjoy it and there are so many opportunities out there.”

“The highlight for me so far has been my tournament in Europe, the U21s in Belgium. It was a mixed tournament and it was an incredible set up both on the pitch and off the pitch… I learnt so much from that experience.”

Antoinette McKeown, Sport NI Chief Executive, congratulated Amy on her award win: “The SportMaker Awards are an opportunity to recognise our unsung sporting heroes who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make sport happen within our communities.

“Young officials like Amy are at the heart of local sport, providing the opportunities for people to compete and enjoy sport. Amy has displayed a tremendous commitment to developing her experience through professional development while also encouraging other young people to give umpiring a go through mentoring and coaching.

“Well done Amy – you are a SportMaker!”