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At Community Finance Ireland 37% of our loan portfolio is made up of organisations from the sporting sector. So our team spend a lot of time talking to and walking with those in their local communities who see sport as a means to offer opportunities, address rural decline and also help personal and community fitness.

Each has a very hands-on approach when it comes to working with our clients. We put people first. When our clients call with a query, they hear a familiar voice at the end of the phone. They know the face who is at the other end of an email. Our change-makers are on the ground, supporting communities, meeting clients and making an impact in their regions.

We speak finance but we hear people – So, we thought you might like to hear their own thoughts on what a sporting change-maker might look like and also their own sporting stories.


Our next Change-Maker is Phelim Sharvin, Head of Community Finance NI from Co. Down. Working with clients like Teconnaught GFC, Glendermott Cricket Club and Carryduff GAC in Northern Ireland, Phelim is particularly passionate about Gaelic Games.


What has been your own involvement in sports?

I have played Gaelic football, hurling and soccer since I was a kid, retiring at 35. I always enjoyed cross country running when at school. I have coached GAA and soccer across a wide range of age groups including senior men’s and I would I still regularly run distances of 5k.

What client or local sporting clubs do you admire and why?

Slaughtneil GAC comes to mind. They are a club that are playing Gaelic football, hurling and camogie at the highest level. This is a remarkable achievement for a rural community with such a limited population. The club and locals have helped reverse rural decline and depopulation. The result of this is that they now have a thriving community and are a growing Gaeltacht in rural South Derry. Very much a club that is at the heart of the community and offering more than just a sports facility.

Who is your sporting hero and is there a particular reason?

Matt Connor, a Gaelic footballer from Offaly in the 1970s/’80s. He was technically very good and he was a player who could have played in any era. A brilliant, graceful footballer and a player before his time. Unfortunately, Matt was seriously injured in a car crash in 1984 and was no longer able to continue to play his sport.

How has sport helped you/ your family/ community personally?

As a volunteer at my local club, I have seen first hand how the GAA in particular helps bind communities, reinforce identity and can give a real sense of community purpose and belonging. Everyone at the club helps out due to their love for their sport and their community and this mentality truly showcases volunteering at its best. Sport not only contributes to the physical well-being of the participants but also alleviates stresses and strains on your mental well-being.

Finally on a scale of 1 (average) to 5 (excellent) how do you rate your own fitness?

I would say my own fitness is probably a 2- Fair.


If you and your team, have a dream that could make a difference in your community, we’re here to listen. Whether you want to change something by solving a problem or creating an opportunity, we want to hear what you have to say. Get in touch with us today.

Share this article:

At Community Finance Ireland 37% of our loan portfolio is made up of organisations from the sporting sector. So our team spend a lot of time talking to and walking with those in their local communities who see sport as a means to offer opportunities, address rural decline and also help personal and community fitness.

Each has a very hands-on approach when it comes to working with our clients. We put people first. When our clients call with a query, they hear a familiar voice at the end of the phone. They know the face who is at the other end of an email. Our change-makers are on the ground, supporting communities, meeting clients and making an impact in their regions.

We speak finance but we hear people – So, we thought you might like to hear their own thoughts on what a sporting change-maker might look like and also their own sporting stories.


Nora Keogh Sports Community Finance Ireland

Our next Change-Maker is Nora Keogh, Client Relationship Manager from Newcastle West Co. Limerick. Working with clients like Dromcollogher Community Council CLG, Ardagh Community Centre Association and Crusheen Community Centre CLG in the Munster Region. Nora is passionate about cycling and spends much of her free time cycling our fantastic Greenways across Munster.


What has been your own involvement in sports?

As a young child/teenager I got involved in running as we had an annual sports day in our local parish where we all aspired to perform to the best of our ability and enjoy a great community day in the process. We had fantastic parish volunteers locally who gave up so much time to help get everything ready for the annual sports day. The 100m was my race of choice and I was delighted to be in the top three on a number of occasions.

None of this could happen without the dedication of the committee and their team of volunteers. I now understand the dedication of those involved at the grass roots of the parish in encouraging us all to join in sports regardless of our ability. This fostered a love of running in many of the participants which has resulted in some fine athletes from the parish and, at a broader level, an appreciation of how sports can help us all stay fit and healthy and promote a feel good factor.

What client or local sporting clubs do you admire and why?

Our local athletics club, the West Limerick Athletics Club (AC) inspires me as they have always maintained a great club for people of every ability with no facilities other than the local Demesne Town Park. A new state of the art Regional Athletics Hub is currently under development on the outskirts of Newcastle West in Co. Limerick which has taken years to get to fruition through the hard work and perseverance of the people involved.

This will really help all level of athletes train in all seasons and will bring a number of athletics clubs together in the region. This facility will be the first of its kind in the West Limerick /North Cork area and will also be used for regional and national competitions when completed in 2022.

West Limerick AC have great, dedicated coaches who work with all the juniors and foster a love of running and all are welcome and encouraged regardless of speed or ability.

The mantra is to get involved and enjoy and keep fit in the process. Every junior is encouraged to take part in events and the focus is on taking part and finishing the race which helps build character and life skills.

This new Regional Athletics Hub will provide a fantastic facility for all level of athletes and provide a top class facility for all the members to train locally in a state of the art facility and reach their personal best. I am really looking forward to seeing the new Hub finished in 2022 which will be a top class Regional Athletics Hub comparable to anywhere in Europe.

Who is your sporting hero and is there a particular reason?

Carolyn Hayes is our local Triathlon winner from Newcastle West Co. Limerick who competed in the recent Olympics and finished in the top 28. Carolyn previously won silver in the World Triathlon Cup in May 2021 and is currently ranked no. 28 in the World Triathlon rankings.

Carolyn is a fantastic example of dedication and commitment and a real model for young people. Carolyn cycled with our local Newcastle West Cycling Club and always encouraged everyone else to get involved.

Carolyn is also a doctor and really shows us what you can do if you are dedicated to your goals. She is a true ambassador for all women and promoting women’s sports at every level and has always taken time to encourage local sports clubs at every turn and encourage everyone to get involved regardless of ability.

How has sport helped you/ your family/ community personally?

Although I don’t run anymore I have taken up cycling and joined the local Newcastle West Cycling Club. Cycling really helps me maintain a balance in a busy live with family and also keeps me fit.  I’ve competed in a number of cycling events such as the Ring of Beara, in Kerry. Organised by one of our members we covered 175km and helped raise over €2,000 for the Alzheimer’s Society.

We now have a new Greenway across West Limerick which has really helped encourage cyclists of all ages and families to cycle or walk together and enjoy quality time outdoors while taking in our fantastic countryside. I and my family are found here most weekends, whatever the weather.

Finally on a scale of 1 (average) to 5 (excellent) how do you rate your own fitness?

Currently I would say 3, depending on the company I am in. I am always striving to get better but that is a never ending story.


If you and your team, have a dream that could make a difference in your community, we’re here to listen. Whether you want to change something by solving a problem or creating an opportunity, we want to hear what you have to say. Get in touch with us today.

Share this article:

At Community Finance Ireland 37% of our loan portfolio is made up of organisations from the sporting sector. So our team spend a lot of time talking to and walking with those in their local communities who see sport as a means to offer opportunities, address rural decline and also help personal and community fitness.

Each has a very hands-on approach when it comes to working with our clients. We put people first. When our clients call with a query, they hear a familiar voice at the end of the phone. They know the face who is at the other end of an email. Our change-makers are on the ground, supporting communities, meeting clients and making an impact in their regions.

We speak finance but we hear people – So, we thought you might like to hear their own thoughts on what a sporting change-maker might look like and also their own sporting stories.


Peter Smyth Sports

Our next Change-Maker is Peter Smyth, Client Relationship Manager from Moira who works with clients like Ballymacash Sports Academy, St Molaise GAC Irvinestown, Ballynahinch Rugby Club and Glendermott Cricket Club.


What has been your own involvement in sports?

I have had a love for sport for as long as I can remember. My real passion is for soccer and I loved nothing more at school than at break and lunchtime getting the football out and playing until the school bell rang. When I moved to grammar school I played rugby for the 1st XV and have fond memories of lining out on a Saturday morning for my school team Rainey Endowed in Magherafelt. Those few years were probably my most enjoyable sporting years as I was playing along with boys who I sat in class with every day and with who I formed great friendships.

On leaving school I then played rugby for Rainey Old Boys’ for a few years and enjoyed stepping up to a higher level. This involved travel all over the country which I really enjoyed. Due to work commitments I stepped away from rugby and became more of a soccer fan again and especially when my son began to play for our local club Lurgan Town. I have been watching him play now every Saturday since he was four years of age and he is now 28.

He now plays for and captains Lurgan BBOB and while I love standing on the sidelines watching him play, nothing beats stepping over the white line oneself. I have now been brought onto the club committee and I enjoy employing my financial skills to assist in the club’s ongoing development.

Until recently I have been playing six a side soccer every Monday evening however having just reached a significant birthday I have gracefully retired! My one major regret is that I didn’t keep playing rugby competitively for much longer.

What client or local sporting clubs do you admire and why?

To be honest I am reluctant and would struggle to single any one local club out. I continue to be amazed at the enthusiasm, energy and commitment of the vast number of volunteers involved across the full range of sports we have supported.

Our entire loan portfolio is characterised by dedicated teams of volunteers who give themselves selflessly to a range of causes including sport. Given the many mental health issues that have been caused by the COVID pandemic, sport is such a great channel to clear the head and focus on something positive.

Who is your sporting hero and is there a particular reason?

My local sporting hero, who unfortunately is no longer with us was George Best.  He was quite simply a natural talent who excited the crowds and was someone who all youngsters wanted to be like in terms of his ball skills. I also admired Willie John McBride for his man management skills as well as his rugby playing ability. Leading the British Lions to an unbeaten tour in South Africa in 1974 was an amazing feat.

How has sport helped you/ your family/ community personally?

Sport is great medicine for one’s health and emotional wellbeing. There is nothing better than to get out in the fresh air and clear the head. Whether it be playing or just observing the game, it does push the stresses and strains of everyday life into the background which can only be beneficial.

Finally on a scale of 1 (average) to 5 (excellent) how do you rate your own fitness?

I’d say a 2, Fair.


If you and your team, have a dream that could make a difference in your community, we’re here to listen. Whether you want to change something by solving a problem or creating an opportunity, we want to hear what you have to say. Get in touch with us today.

Share this article:

At Community Finance Ireland 37% of our loan portfolio is made up of organisations from the sporting sector. So our team spend a lot of time talking to and walking with those in their local communities who see sport as a means to offer opportunities, address rural decline and also help personal and community fitness.

Each has a very hands-on approach when it comes to working with our clients. We put people first. When our clients call with a query, they hear a familiar voice at the end of the phone. They know the face who is at the other end of an email. Our change-makers are on the ground, supporting communities, meeting clients and making an impact in their regions.

We speak finance but we hear people – So, we thought you might like to hear their own thoughts on what a sporting change-maker might look like and also their own sporting stories.


Anne Graham

Our first Change-Maker is Anne Graham, Client Relationship Manager from Buncrana, Co. Donegal. Anne’s sporting clients include the likes of Kilcar Kayaking, Illies Golden Gloves Boxing and Craughwell Athletics Club.


What has been your own involvement in sports?

I wasn’t very involved in any team sports at all growing up, as in all honesty there wasn’t much encouragement or coaching locally for girls. It was just the way life was back then. I was and still am a keen runner. I remember winning a three mile run when I was about 10 years old. I had no idea I was such a natural at it, until I was told I was first across the finishing line. I still have that trophy.

Nowadays, a lot has changed, I spend a lot of my time in my car, ferrying my two teenage children to GAA and soccer matches.  Between the two of them, they play on five teams- so it is a busy household.  What fills me with joy is seeing two local teenage girls like Emma Doherty and Kerri Loughery lining out for Republic of Ireland games at underage, this is gigantic step both locally and regionally for women in sport.  Make no mistake: this is directly related to local coaching, passion and commitment from volunteers who give their time at grass route level to get our young people to this level.

What client or local sporting clubs do you admire and why?

Our new client Mulroy Hoops is a basketball club located in a rural location within the Fanad Peninsula in North East Donegal.  This club offer an alternative fitness and wellness program for those kids who for various reasons do not or cannot access GAA or soccer. They pay attention to goals for individuals that do not demand winning while at the same time offering avenues for elite athletes to develop. In their current older groups they have players at regional levels for Ulster who are offered trials for the Irish squads and at the same time we continue to introduce players to the sport at a beginners level well into their teen years. This leads to a retention of boys and girls when in other sports they are beginning to drop out.

Additionally, this club have developed avenues for children to train in other aspects of sport such as refereeing, table officials and as player representatives at committee level within the club. They also actively encourage the children to take coaching certificates and offer them opportunities to gain experience coaching within the club and with responsibilities to manage and organise games within the competitive league structures. 

For me this is a club who have more than just winning games at heart, they are producing experiences and avenues for children to explore a lot more than sport.  In my day sport was never uttered as a career option, what Mulroy Hoops are doing here is sowing a seed of exploration for children at a young age and showing them the way forward. This is done not just in terms of sport but also shows how involvement in sport can forge alternative career options away from the traditional routes for future generations.  They also work collaboratively with the LYIT Sports Department and invite in undergraduates to work with the team.

Who is your sporting hero and is there a particular reason?

Ellen Keane.  She is not only a European Champion and Paralympic bronze medallist, but she is an advocate for, women, disability sport, and positive body image. She highlights the inequity and difficulties faced daily by people with disabilities, something most able bodied people have little or no awareness or understanding of. In a world where there is a lot of emphasis placed on appearance, Ellen is a role model in changing this perception.

How has sport helped you/ your family/ community personally?

Running has helped me stay fit, stay connected and socialise with friends.  In 2020 I took up sea swimming which has helped me push past my comfort zone. The cold temperatures are no joke. I find my children’s sport now forms a large part of my social life and meeting up with other families and volunteers helps me get out of my own head.

Finally on a scale of 1 (average) to 5 (excellent) how do you rate your own fitness?

I feel like I am 3+, always room for improvement, I just need to keep it, as part of my routine. 


If you and your team, have a dream that could make a difference in your community, we’re here to listen. Whether you want to change something by solving a problem or creating an opportunity, we want to hear what you have to say. Get in touch with us today.

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