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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.


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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Following a summer where local sporting heroes made their mark at national and international level, Community Finance Ireland has launched a £5 million fund aimed at sports clubs throughout 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 for 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 event, Phelim Sharvin, Head of Community Finance (NI) at Community Finance Ireland said:

“The considerable appetite for finance from the sports sector shows no signs of slowing down, with almost a third of queries to our website coming through from sports clubs . 

The success of NI sports people this summer has meant that there’s increasing demands on clubs who are experiencing growing membership and interest in their offerings.  We know that the flexibility of the loan terms, alongside the speedy decision-making process makes this an attractive product for sports clubs. 

With just over a third of loan applications last year coming from the sports sector, this is an area Community Finance Ireland know really well.  In the period June 2020-June 2021, queries from sports organisations were higher than ever with roughly a quarter of these approaches coming from Northern Ireland. Interest from GAA and football clubs continues to be strong, however we’re starting to see engagement from less traditional disciplines like gymnastics and cricket where increasing membership requires additional space and therefore investment in facilities.” 

Phelim Sharvin- Head of Community Finance (NI), Community Finance Ireland

Flight Gymnastics in County Antrim, a client of Community Finance Ireland since 2017, has experienced a 300%+ increase in membership in the past 24 months. Andrew O’Hare and Judith Hindes attribute recent growth in part to the Olympics, but more so coming out of lockdown and the need younger people have to develop much needed fundamental movement and social interaction skills greatly affected over the last 18 months.  

Andrew O’Hare from Flight Gymnastics said:

“We’ve been working with Community Finance Ireland since 2017, accessing finance for working capital and the installation of a specialist heating system in our premises. The relationship we have with the team means they know our business and how we work and the fast decision-making process means that we can be as flexible as possible in responding to the changing needs of our members.  Due to a significant increase in our membership base we’re currently looking at expanding our premises and we know that Community Finance Ireland understands how important this facility will be, not only to us but to our members and their families.”

Andrew O’Hare, Flight Gymnastics

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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