Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring announced the winners of the National Volunteers in Sport Awards at an awards ceremony in the Aviva Stadium on Wed 19/11/14.
Among the reciepients was Nenagh Olympic's Sean Naughton who received a Lifetime Achievement award.
The article below, from the Irish Times 20/11/14 reflects the respect due to Sean for the tireless work and many hours he dedicated to our club and Irish athletics since the clubs foundation in 1955.
Picture credit: Pat Murphy/Sportsfile
Volunteers: the backbone of sport in Ireland
Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring announced the winners of the National Volunteers in Sport Awards at a ceremony in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin yesterday
Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring announced the winners of the National Volunteers in Sport Awards at an awards ceremony in the Aviva Stadium yesterday. Pictured at the announcement are award-winners: (from left) Danielle Keane, Community Administrator Award, Laois, Seán Naughton, Lifetime Achievement Award, Tipperary, Peggy Mason, Special Recognition Award, Dublin, Paddy Christie, Youth Manager Award, Dublin, Patrick Akpoveta, Youth Coach Award, Dublin, Minister of State Michael Ring, Ernie Deacy, Sporting Official Award, Dublin, Tony Cummins, Adult Coach Award, Waterford, Mary Sharp, National Administrator Award, Dublin, Shane Carolan, Disabilities Sport Volunteer Award, and Tony Hehir, Adult Manager Award, Limerick. Volunteers in Sports Awards 2014, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin.
How utterly fitting that Seán Naughton, on the day he turned 81, found himself being recognised for his lifetime of volunteering in Irish sport by none other than Ronnie Delany. Both their lives, although different in persona, have always been intertwined.
Because without volunteers like Naughton there would never be Olympians like Delany. Indeed Naughton, a tidy sprinter in his youth, started out with Olympic ambitions of his own, and might well have been in Melbourne, back in 1956, when Delany won his gold medal in the 1,500m.
He’d actually run a qualifying time (9.8 seconds, for the 100 yards), but the old politics of Irish athletics stood in his way, and Naughton’s selection was turned down. Instead of dampening his enthusiasm that merely reinforced it. By then, Naughton had already helped found Nenagh Olympic Athletic Club, in 1955, inspired by a trio of Irish Olympians who came from the Tipperary area, with the intention of producing a lot more.
Which they did – including two-time Olympic sprinter Gary Ryan – and almost 60 years later, Nenagh Olympic is still nurturing athletes of the future, including Naughton’s grandson, Brian, who he recently coached to a national under-14 hammer title. Naughton was also the man behind Ireland’s first indoor athletics track, built in Nenagh in 1984, which for more than 20 years benefited athletes of all ages (including myself) from all over the country, while the Government repeatedly failed to deliver on their promise for such a facility.
No wonder Naughton was such a popular choice for the Lifetime Achievement at the 2014 National Volunteers in Sport Awards, presented at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin yesterday. He’s also served as Irish athletics coach at Olympic and World Championship level, and even at 81 his enthusiasm is in no way dampened, although he does sense the voluntary aspect of sport is not quite what it used to be.
“My earliest memory is going to school, with the hurl in one hand, and the schoolbag in the other,” he recalled. “And on the way home we’d be organising games, or different events, without even thinking about it.
“And all over the years I never once looked at it as a job. It was always done for the enjoyment. I remember I did some coaching at some event, and someone gave me a check afterwards. But I never cashed it, as a matter of principal really. I think anyone in sport will tell you that when you do things voluntarily you get a much bigger kick out of it. And we never had a problem with discipline, either.
“We still have huge numbers coming into the club, but after the age of 16, young athletes do drop off now, and that’s where the volunteering becomes even more important. And it’s probably not as easy as it once was.”
The National Volunteers in Sport Awards were started in 2007, headed up by the Federation of Irish Sports – which represents some 72 National Governing Bodies, and 28 Local Sports Partnerships: they estimate there are now 500,000 adults volunteering in Irish sport on a regular basis, which may be worth something in the region of €3 billion, each year, to Irish sport.
In other words there is no way Irish sport could afford to be without its voluntary aspect. The winners came from 342 nominations, and were selected by a committee chaired by Ronnie Delany, with representatives from the Federation of Irish Sport, the Irish Sports Council, The Irish Times, RTÉ and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.