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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.


Lita Notte Sports

Our next Change-Maker is Lita Notte, Head of Marketing and Communications from Cork City and living in the idyllic Carlingford.


What has been your own involvement in sports?

As a young child/teenager I got involved in sport as it was the only real way to have some time and chats with my Dad – who played football until he was actually 48 and his legs failed. I spent many cold dark evenings running behind him as he was a key volunteer for the local Togher Athletics Club.

Athletics and basketball were my sports of choice. I won some medals and captained my secondary school basketball team in Cork City. Tuesday and Thursday nights were training and Saturday was usually a game or a run somewhere – all of which was organised by parents and local teachers. I guess I didn’t realise then that they ultimately were the volunteering community who helped us all have fun and find friends whilst staying happy and safe.

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

Our client Finn Valley FC in Donegal is a wonder to me. With my background in athletics I understood first-hand how that type of facility would help all the athletics around the hinterland feel like they could run at any speed and at any length. It was a stark contrast to the training facilities available to us in Cork back in our day. The team here focus on fostering opportunity and that is also to be admired. Opportunities exist for all their members to strive for excellence and compete to their personal best. They really have built a world class sporting facility that you would expect in a capital city – not a rural location in Ireland.

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

Martina Navratilova tennis champion extraordinaire. She helped put female tennis on a level playing field. Both on the court and off it she was a trailblazer. It’s thanks to athletes like her that pay differences were addressed and that physical strength not just prettiness was the new norm. Her story off court was just as exemplary – her quiet but effective method of promoting differences and protecting athletes’ private lives from intrusion, were ahead of her time. Sport and sometimes our communities need role models that push us to accept who we are is really all we need to be. Nowadays when watching Wimbledon on TV I’m thrilled to see her front and centre in the BBC commentary panel. She was and is a voice for all independent and confident women.

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

Although I don’t compete anymore or even play sport much these days (sea swimming is my new fix) I remember how sport helped us a family have fun and be together. It definitely helped me understand the importance of teamwork. My family continue to connect across sporting events (recent Olympics was a great Whatsapp driver) and when I see local cars pulling kids up outside local pitches or clubs I’m reminded that both memories and adults are being made right there.

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

I think I can only be honest and give myself a 2+ at this stage. But it means I have something to strive for – and as any sporting enthusiast will tell you having something to strive for is the best situation to be in.


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.


Nicky McElhatton Sports

Our next Change-Maker is Nicky McElhatton, Marketing and Social Media Executive from Coalisland in Co. Tyrone. Nicky is a self-proclaimed couch potato but he has recently tried to change that.


What has been your own involvement in sports?

At school, P.E. was my least favourite subject. I would always conveniently ‘forget’ my P.E. kit so I didn’t have to take part. That was until the teacher announced that the class would be travelling the short distance to Dungannon Leisure Centre for six weeks of swimming. I loved being in the water and was more advanced than most of the class. This was because when I was four, my father had taken me every Saturday to the same pool for ‘Little Duckling’ swimming lessons. It was funny to hear exclamations from my (usually more athletic and sporty) classmates who were surprised that I was actually good at a sport, as I outswam them in the pool.

As an adult I must admit that my involvement in sport has been minimal. That was until recently. Having enjoyed a summer of sport on the TV with the Euros soccer competition, the Olympics, the Paralympics and my native Tyrone impressing on the GAA pitch, I have been inspired to take up some exercise. I quickly downloaded the Couch to 5K app having had it recommended my some of my more exercise-inclined friends. I’m now in Week 9 and already notice a marked difference, not only in my fitness levels, but my stamina, my mood and my mental health. Taking to the nearby Orangefield Park with my partner, sweatbands on, earbuds in and warm up exercises done, the app’s Denise Lewis has coached me three times a week, with incremental increases in run to walk ratio as the weeks go by. By the end of each 30 minute session I am usually out of breath, shins aching but it always feels worthwhile and I’m always looking forward to my next run.

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

We have such a diverse range of clients spanning many different sports. I always find it interesting when a sport that I know little or nothing about approaches us for assistance in developing their organisation. Niche sports like kayaking, harness racing and cliffhanging are represented in our portfolio with clients like Kilcar Kayaking (Co. Donegal), Irish Harness Racing (Co. Dublin) and Dublin Cliffhangers (Co. Dublin). They truly represent the resilience that exists in the sports sector. They represent sports that may find it more difficult than mainstream sports to leverage funding from traditional sources, often having to fight harder or state their case more emphatically. But they don’t let this get in the way of their passion that they have for their particular sport and they strive to improve their facilities for those in their community who are equally passionate.

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

With the Euros dominating the airwaves this summer, I got really into football like I never have before and never missed a match. With Ireland not making the cut in the qualifying stages, I had to look for an alternate national team to support. That’s when I fell in love with Italy and in particular Lorenzo Insigne. He was always at the heart of the action, tirelessly creating goal opportunities for his team and in particular his partner in crime Ciro Immobile. The team had their ups (topping their group with maximum 9 points) and downs (that dicey match with Spain resulting in a penalty shootout) but ultimately they powered through and won their second Euros title, made all the sweeter by the fact that they beat England in the Final.

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

My whole extended family are mad into the GAA. Always have been and always will be. Growing up we would always have gone to all the Tyrone matches together and never missed one. My dad was always on the phone hunting for tickets for the more sought after games. While my mum’s patience was put to the test trying to organise the three children- making sure our jerseys were cleaned and ironed, that the flasks were filled with tea, that the half time sandwiches and snacks were packed in our picnic bag. This was a special time for us to bond as a family.

With Tyrone’s recent success in the Ulster Final and winning the All Ireland Final, we’ve had the chance to relive those glory days, albeit this year in front of the TV, rather than pitch side. Travelling home to Coalisland for Tyrone’s clash against Mayo, we were all gathered round cheering on the boys in red and white. There has been a bit of discord in the family though, as one of my cousins recently married a Mayo man. When the two counties did battle in the All Ireland final, I’m glad I wasn’t watching in their house.

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

I feel like a 3 is fair assessment. It’s very much a case of a work in progress. While I have started doing my Couch to 5k and I am enjoying it, it’s very much a recent thing. Prior to this I did zero exercise with the exception of the occasional Sunday walk. I also feel like I could be doing more. So I’m hoping to incorporate a weekly swim in the Winter when the weather starts to turn.


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.


Pauline Carolan Sports

Our next Change-Maker is Pauline Carolan, our Office Administrator living in the wee county of Louth.


What has been your own involvement in sports?

My participation in sport has been varied over the years. It started as a young girl, twirling a baton and marching the roads of Ireland as a majorette. In my teenage years, in secondary school volleyball was a sport I loved and spent weekends competing in tournaments.

I decided a number of years ago, that I wanted to complete a marathon before a big birthday. I ended up completing three, and while I can’t say I enjoyed every minute of it, I have made friends for life and learned some invaluable life lessons along the way. I have also been involved in charity cycles from Dunleer to Ballinasloe (both on the bike and behind the scenes).

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

Behind every local sporting club and voluntary organisation, is a group of people and volunteers, who give their time and their knowledge, to selflessly help others, and it is these people I admire most. The people who arrive an hour before everyone else to get the pitch ready, the people with their line full of freshly washed team colours, the people who clean up and switch off the lights, long after everyone else has gone home.

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

My sporting heroes are local legends David and Aileen ’the Sheriff’ Carrie.  They set up a running group in 2010 to help local people in Dunleer achieve their dream of training for and completing a marathon (with a lot of craic along the way). David is a postman by day, and a running coach by night. He is a former international athlete, and has helped over 1,000 people achieve their dream of completing a marathon (whether you are a turtle or a hare). In the process, hundreds of thousands of euro have been raised for charities.

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

In recent years, sport has made me realise, that if you put your mind to something, you can achieve anything. 

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

I would say 3 at the moment.


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.


Barry Symes Sport

Our next Change-Maker is Barry Symes, Client Relationship Manager from Wexford. Working with clients like Kilcock Celtic FC, Mount Leinster Rangers GAA and Edenderry Golf Club in the Leinster Region, Barry Symes is passionate about seeing clubs fulfil their ambitions, whatever that may be.


What has been your own involvement in sports?

I was super fortunate to participate in many sports right across the full spectrum from an early age but unfortunately a double ankle break in my mid-teens put an end to virtually all contact sport from that point on. At this point I turned to golf, where I later became pretty handy getting to a scratch handicap. My sporting involvement and goals these days however are largely played out through my children and my work in Community Finance Ireland with my aim ultimately, is helping all achieve their goals.

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

It would almost be unfair to single out one club, as all the clubs I am either involved with or have supported have admirable aspirations and are successful in their own right. Overall I would say the more inclusive the club is, the more successful the club is. I am a firm believer in “when everyone plays, we all win”. Inclusivity, regardless of ability, is paramount. If pressed on the matter, I would refer to Kilcock Celtic FC who were one of the founders of the FAI’s Football For All programme – inspiring.

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

In a global setting, two individuals stick out. Firstly, as a keen motorsport enthusiast, the legend that is Ayrton Senna was something else. His bravery, tenacity, doggedness, ability to extract performance from himself and machine at times was extraordinary. Regrettably the nature of the man who always pushed the limits and the sport resulted in his loss of life, but thankfully his legacy lives on. Secondly, Roger Federer – I am not sure who invented tennis, but I’m pretty sure when they watch Roger Federer play, they think, “that’s what I’m talking about”.

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

Sport is so much greater than just the playing of the game or sport. It is often the glue that binds us as players, coaches, supporters, spectators, critics and individuals in our clubs and communities. The very nature of it is also super important not only for our physical well-being but also our mental health where activity is well proven to have a positive impact. It also however plays tricks in thinking we are now capable of keeping up with those actually participating. But it’s all good and no different to many across the country, particularly with Covid, it has been our invaluable escape.

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

Let’s just say, there’s work to be done.


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.


Terri Martin Sports

Our next Change-Maker is Terri Martin, our Office Manager and Micro Finance Lead. Living in Co. Louth, Terri is a big advocate for Ladies’ GAA.


What has been your own involvement in sports?

Where I grew up there were limited team sports for girls, so with the help of a few friends we set up a Ladies’ Gaelic Football team with the full the support of Meath Hill GAA Club (Co. Meath), and within a few short years we won the Junior Championship. As a result of this I was asked to trial for Meath Ladies’ at the U16 age group, where we won a Leinster Championship, from there I captained the Meath Ladies’ Minor team who also a Leinster Championship. I then trialled for Meath Ladies’ Junior team, where I successfully got my place on the team. After being beaten by Donegal in the semi-final the previous year, we were lucky enough to go on and win a Junior All Ireland Championship and League title in that same year (I have deliberately left the year out as it might give my age away) I also played soccer at a local level and badminton in the winter time, great to keep you fit in the winter months.

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

I’m a die-hard supporter of my home club of Meath Hill. Still to this day, I follow them all around the county. It is a small rural club, but we are known for being fierce loyal and always support our team on match days. This creates a kind of belonging to our community. This was demonstrated more than ever during the Pandemic, where there were many volunteers to do shopping, make dinners etc. for those in the community who needed support during hard times.

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

Too many too mention, but I have to say with Meath Ladies’ winning the All Ireland Senior final recently – who could not but admire Emma Duggan and Vicki Wall – their sheer determination and will to win is an inspiration to any child or adult who plays sport.

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

Sport has created many wonderful memories for me, especially those family days out when we would head to Croke Park with three generations packed into a car, playing games, trying to sing songs on route, the obligatory picnic and of course the post-match analysis discussed over a drink on the way home, building bonfires and dancing on the street to celebrate glory days of Sean Boylan’s reign, a distant memory now but we will come good again.

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

Unfortunately 1, average is how I would describe my fitness at present, I spend my time mentoring my children’s Gaelic teams and dropping and collecting from the numerous sports that are available to my kids nowadays, so I’m lucky if I get time to walk the dog.


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.


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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Ireland has celebrated a summer of sporting success at national and international level, but when we look to the grassroots of our sporting heroes, we must see how much more we could achieve with investment in community facilities. That’s according to Community Finance Ireland, who today (23.09.21) launched a new €5 million fund offering social finance solutions to sports clubs across the island of Ireland.

The new fund will make flexible loans of €10,000-€500,000 available to sports organisations seeking to make a change in their local community whether that is to renovate changing or training facilities for their players and participants, or to improve local infrastructure that makes their club grounds more accessible for the local community.

The fund launched today at an online event, ‘Financial As Well As Physical Fitness Is Key To Success’, with panellists including Sinead Reel, Chairperson of Armagh Ladies’ GAA County Board, sports journalist with the Irish Times Joanne O’Riordan, and Irish Olympian Brendan Boyce who trains at the Community Finance Ireland funded Finn Valley Athletics Club in Donegal.

Speaking at the launch, Anne Graham, Community Finance Ireland Client Relationship Manager said:

“Our athletes have been blazing a trail across tracks, pitches and pools, and inspiring our next generation of sporting heroes. While it’s been a summer to celebrate, it’s also challenged all of us to consider how much more we could achieve, how much more support we could provide our aspiring Olympians or All-Stars, with greater investment in grassroots facilities and clubs.

Every community will be looking to their local pitch, climbing wall or tennis court to see where improvements can be made to upgrade equipment, develop more accessible and inclusive facilities, or perhaps to make the circuit around a pitch or track a safe public walkway for the community to keep active on those darker winter nights by installing floodlights.

Wherever a club sees an opportunity to invest in their local community, we want to put the power to make that change into their hands with fast, flexible, fair loans that can be used to bridge gaps in their funding, unlock drawdown of government grants, or provide much-needed project finance.

We work closely with sports clubs across the country, in fact they make up over a third of the organisations we work with, so we know what they need. We know that volunteers and board members aren’t in a position to provide personal guarantees, so we don’t ask for them; we know funding streams can be unpredictable, so we don’t change our interest rates or hand out penalties for early or lump-sum repayments”.

Anne Graham- Client Relationship Manager, Community Finance Ireland

Patsy McGonagle, Chairman of Finn Valley Athletics Club, worked with Community Finance Ireland to make essential improvements to their grounds in 2013.  He said:

“We’re providing a modern facility in an area where there’s very little opportunity. The mental impact that’s had on the community, the physical and social impact – it’s all positive. When there was a shortfall and we needed money, Community Finance Ireland’s welcome and their approach made it a win-win for us big time. They were very responsive, easy to work with. It was a great experience. The facility would not exist were we not to get that finance.”

Patsy McGonagle- Chairman, Finn Valley Athletics Club

Here’s What You Need to Know

1. What loan product types are available?

  • Short term bridging loans to facilitate retrospective drawing of grant support (interest only, plus grant upon redemption).
  • Longer term loans with bespoke repayment schedules.

2. What geography does the fund cover?

  • Northern Ireland, Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connacht.

3. What is the loan range?

  • £10k – £500k (NI).
  • €10k – €500k (RoI).

4. What is the term range?

  • 1 month – 180 months.

5. What is the interest rate?

  • Maximum 6.25%*, calculated on a reducing balance.
  • *The lowest maximum rate across the island.

6. Is there an arrangement fee?

  • No*
  • *The only bridging product available across the entire island to do so.

7. What security is required?

  • None on bridging loans.
  • Most of our term loans are also unsecured.
  • No Personal Guarantees are required.

8. Is there an Early Repayment penalty?

  • No.

9. How long does a loan decision take?

  • 48 hours for any loan request of up to £/€200k once we have all of your final information.
  • Up to 4-6 weeks for loan request in excess of £/€200k.

10. How do I apply?

  • You can get started now by clicking here and completing an online application.
  • Or if you need to chat to us first click here and we will arrange a follow up call with either Phelim, Peter, Emmett, Barry, Nora or Anne depending on where you and your team are located.
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