A Tyrone GAA club which lost two young members in separate road accidents is celebrating after being voted the UK’s favourite Lottery-funded sports project.
The Beragh Red Knights club beat off competition from hundreds of projects across the UK to land the prestigious title at the star-studded National Lottery Awards.
The club’s community sports pavilion, which provides exercise, dance and drama classes, won the Best Sports Project award and a £2,000 cash prize.
It is a major boost to the club, just weeks after two of its members were killed in separate road tragedies.
Mark McGirr (21), a goalkeeper, was killed in a crash outside Aughnacloy, just six weeks before Cathy Cox (26), who played for the ladies’ team, died after an accident in Fermanagh.
Members from the club mixed with celebrities, including hosts Myleene Klass and Nick Knowles, at the ceremony, which was broadcast live on BBC 1 on Saturday night.
The community sports pavilion received an incredible show of public support throughout the competition, including Saturday’s final.
The chairman of Beragh Red Knights, Gerard Treacy, said it was an honour for the club to win the award.
“It is a fantastic achievement for the club and the community,” he said. “The GAA plays a very important role in the community, particularly in rural areas like Beragh.
“It is very poignant that this should come after a very difficult few weeks for the local community. We lost Mark and Cathy in tragic circumstances, and this is a timely boost which allows us to focus on something more positive.”
The £750,000 project began in 2004 and was part-funded by the National Lottery. Aside from team facilities, the building also includes rooms for use by the Beragh community.
“Our Lottery funding has allowed us to make a real difference to the people who come from across our community boundaries and beyond to use the sports pavilion and keep fit and healthy,” he added.
The club will pick up a cheque for £2,000, and Mr Treacy is delighted that the project has been recognised on a national stage.
“It was never about the money,” he added. “The main thing was recognition of all the hard work which has been put into the project over the last four or five years.
“The prize money will probably be set aside and we will look at what more we can do for the community.”