Driscoll brothers from Bangor among local athletes to receive Mary Peters Trust awards

Mary Peters

SAILING stars Bobby and Tom Driscoll, from Bangor, were some of those that recently collected Mary Peters Trust funding awards for their achievements in sport.

The Driscoll brothers joined a host of local athletes as they were celebrated at a special Athletes’ Academy event held at Newforge Sports Complex, Belfast and hosted by Paralympian champion, Dr Michael McKillop.

Also honoured at the event were local netballer Joy Ebbinghaus and swimmer Gene Smyth (both from Bangor), as well as Newtownards weightlifting sensation, Lucy McGonigle.

The Mary Peters Trust awards are designed to recognise young people representing a wide array of sports ranging from gymnastics and judo to boccia, netball, swimming and sailing.

Athletes are nominated and then selected following a rigorous process and each receive financial and general support to help them navigate and succeed in their sporting careers and ultimately achieve their individual goals.

The current tranche of awards was presented by Lady Mary Peters and athletes were joined by parents and family members as well as sport liaison officers and awards team chair, Will Doggart.

Congratulating the current cohort, Mr Doggart said: “Today’s young athletes are competing at venues across the world and funding support is vital to help them fulfil their sporting dreams.

“Athletes and their families sacrifice a lot to push forward and develop in their sport and we at the Trust love seeing how each person’s journey progresses. We wish our current award winners all the very best for the future.”

Meanwhile, Newtownards netball player Erin Young and sailor Kaitlyn Eadie were both recipients of David Magill Coaching Awards.

Erin and Kaitlyn are among 15 young sports people each to have benefitted from a special bursary from the Mary Peters Trust’s newest funding programme, the ‘David Magill Coaching Awards’. 

Set up by the Trust and the family of David Magill, who passed away in November 2021 aged 86, the coaching initiative aims to help young athletes take up coaching courses relevant to their chosen sport.

During his lifetime David had made a huge contribution and impact within the worlds of sport, business, local community, and volunteering. David was an all-round sports person, excelling in pole-vaulting and winning the Irish Youth Championship in 1954.

His widow Joan, daughters Joanne and Denise and the wider family wanted to establish the David Magill Coaching Awards programme as a tribute to a much-loved husband, dad and grandfather.

Joan Magill, David’s widow, explained how the idea came about: “As a young athlete in the 1950s, David had little access to full-time coaches and proper facilities and had to think up unusual and creative ways to improve and develop.

“He did a lot of research, read books, discussed ideas with other sports people and even resorted to sending photos by post of himself in action to champion athletes seeking their feedback and advice on grip, technique, and training regimes.

“David was an admirer of Mary Peters who, like him, had to fight hard to access training and development opportunities and he would be thrilled that a coaching programme in his name will make a difference to current and future athletes throughout Northern Ireland.”

Mrs Magill continued: “Back in 1954 a local sports journalist described David as ‘a young man with a big ambition’ and our family feels the Awards are playing a part in helping young sports people to realise their own big ambitions, win medals and potentially reach the pinnacle of their chosen sport.”

Joan Magill and her daughter Joanne joined Lady Mary Peters at a special presentation event at Newforge Sports Complex in Belfast to welcome and celebrate the David Magill Coaching Award winners.

Paying tribute to Joan, Joanne and Denise Magill, Lady Mary said: “At the Mary Peters Trust we are constantly seeking new approaches and different initiatives to help local athletes strive to compete with the best in the world.

“David and Joan Magill have been superb supporters of the Trust and its ongoing work over the years. We are very much indebted to the Magill family and wholeheartedly thank them for their financial endowment and their work in establishing these new coaching awards.

“It has been wonderful to meet our cohort of 15 athletes drawn from disability sport, badminton, athletics, gymnastics and netball, and we wish them all well as they embark on their various coaching courses.

“We look forward to hearing how their new qualifications help them develop in their specific sports and how as new coaches they can support athletes of the future to fast-track towards success.”