Service to sports awards celebrate Limerick’s unsung heroes for 30 years

Donal O’Regan


Donal O’Regan

Paddy O'Connell presents the Jerry Burke award to Shane Ryan and James McCarthy at the Limerick Service to Sports Awards. Picture: Dermot Lynch
WHILE there are many ceremonies for sports stars, for thirty years one awards function celebrates those helping the stars reach their goals.

WHILE there are many ceremonies for sports stars, for thirty years one awards function celebrates those helping the stars reach their goals.

The Limerick Service to Sports Awards pays tribute to those who work quietly and diligently in the background. While they seek no praise or accolades they certainly deserve them.

Founded in 1983 by the late Jerry Burke the list of winners over 30 years reads like a who’s who of sport in Limerick city and county.

“The Limerick Service to Sport Awards pays tribute to the unsung heroes in Limerick,” said Paddy O’Connell, one of the organisers and Limerick athletics supremo.

As well as those helping men and women to reach the top, they pick one who has done something extraordinary.

Called the Jerry Burke Award, this year they couldn’t choose just one.

The winners are Shane Ryan, Ballybricken and James McCarthy, Caherdavin, who represented Ireland at the 2012 Paralympics in rowing and shot putt respectively.

Shane played hurling and football for Ballybricken/Bohermore GAA and rugby with Bruff until a degenerative eye condition meant he had to stop.

“I will never forget what Shane said to me when I rang him. He said ‘I lived a normal life until I was 16’. Now he is living an extraordinary life,” said Mr O’Connell.

Shane started rowing in 2007 under the tutelage of Joe Cunningham in Castleconnell Boat in 2007. Within two years of taking up the sport Shane was rowing for his country, and will do so for many years to come.

James has been representing Ireland for over two decades and probably could do with an extra trophy room for all his medals, accolades and Irish records. As well as field events, James has won basketball and rowing medals.

Other worthy winners this year included Jim Gibbs, founding member of Ballinacurra Gaels; JD Hartnett, player and administrator with Abbeyfeale RFC; John Hickey, coach and chairperson of Dooneen Athletics Club; Mike Kelly, rower and administrator with Athlunkard Rowing Club; Gerry McNamara, who has played a central role in the development of Mungret GAA Club for 20 years; Robert O’Dea, who formed Kilteely Dromkeen Garrydoolis Community Games and overseen it go from strength to strength; Michael O’Regan, founding member of Lisnagry FC in 1982 and is currently involved in their major pitch redevelopment plans; Pat Sheehan, former hurler and club secretary of St Mary’s Sean Finn’s GAA Club in Rathkeale where he devotes all his spare time; James Walsh, who started his soccer career with Southend FC in 1980 and has helped develop many players after retirement, and Peter Williams, who has given his undivided attention to Rathkeale Boxing Club for 30 years.

Heroes, every one.