There were celebrations at Lisburn Distillery FC recently when Ged Irwin received the prestigious SportMaker Disability Coach of the Year award.  

The Disability Coach of the Year award recognises the achievements of a coach working to develop people with a disability at any level within sport.

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. 

Ged has been involved with Lisburn Distillery since 1992 and established the Special Educational Needs (SEN) team within the club.  

Sport NI surprised Ged with his award at a training session and his passion and commitment to his team and the young people in it shone through. 

On receiving his award Ged said:
“I am in total shock! I have to say I was delighted to be nominated and I thought that was it. I do a number of roles within Lisburn Distillery. I was Academy Chairman for 14 years dealing with more off-field and never really taking an active role in coaching. A couple of parents came about three years ago and said that their kids playing for teams on a Saturday never really got a chance and would we start a disability section. And I’ve just got more and more involved with the coaching and that’s where it came about.” 

Marie Brannigan, a parent of one of the kids on the team nominated Ged for the award, highlighting his ability to engage with kids and get the best out of them without putting pressure on them,
“When we come here, he adapts everything to fit our kids. Rather than us trying to put our children in somewhere and for them having to fit into that sport, the sport is fitting us, and it means so much. It means so much to the parents as well as our kids because we get to mix… he welcomes us, and he welcomes the kids.” 

Ged’s focus is on inclusion for all, regardless of ability. He has created an environment where the kids support each other; they have learnt how to both win and lose but most importantly how to work together as a team.  

Ged added:
“The club is so important to me. I have been involved with the club for 30 years now at various levels. But these kids have brought something different. They have brought so much joy to us as coaches and I hope we have given something back to them as kids and brought them on with their football.” 

Lisburn Distillery now has three teams playing in Irish FA Disability league with some success.  

Alan Crooks, Irish FA Foundation praised Ged for his commitment to his club and disability sport.
“Ged’s a great guy. I was delighted to meet with Lisburn Distillery to help them with their inclusive club programme. But they have just taken the small amount of support we were able to give them and run with it. And as you see today,they have got two really expanding age bands and they are growing… The growth has been amazing and it’s because of people like Ged that that has happened.” 

Richard Archibald, Interim CEO, Sport NI congratulated Ged on his award,
“Our SportMaker Awards celebrate the coaches, officials and volunteers who go that extra mile for their club members and their sport. 

“Ged is such an inspirational example of this, working together with the club and parents toset up a disability section and ensure Lisburn Distillery FC is inclusive and welcoming for all kids, regardless of their ability.  

“Congratulations Ged – you are a SportMaker!”