Rory McIlroy funding to fast track injured young Northern Ireland athletes back to fitness
Generous Rory McIlroy has teamed up with the First Lady of Northern Ireland sport, Dame Mary Peters, to pledge financial support to help injury-hit young sportsmen and women make a speedier return to action.
Through his Rory Foundation, with support from the Mary Peters Trust, the golf superstar will fund immediate diagnosis by specialists at the Ulster Independent Clinic to rising young stars, the moment any injuries unfortunately strike.
The gesture, backed by a five-figure donation, was prompted by McIlroy's own highly publicised injury experience when ankle damage suffered in a football kickabout with pals forced him to miss his defence of The Open in 2015.
Dr Andrew Crone, a Trustee of the Rory Foundation and friend of the golfer, announced the initiative, unique in Northern Ireland sport, as the Mary Peters Trust handed over its latest round of funding to aspiring youngsters in a wide range of sports.
The Trust was founded by Munich '72 Olympic pentathlon gold medallist Dame Mary to help young sporting talent follow in her footsteps and in 40 years of existence has aided over 4,000 competitors, including many, like McIlroy, who have progressed to the very top in their sport.
Dr Crone explained: "The Rory Foundation got involved with the Mary Peters Trust not only because of the great work that they do but also because of what the Rory Foundation stands for - helping children and young people live better lives.
"Working in surgery, I see patients with all sorts of injuries. When Rory injured his ankle before The Open in 2015, the reality of injuries was so close to home. It really made us more aware of the fact that athletes get injured all the time and are forced to withdraw from their game, whether it's long-term or short-term.
"I am delighted that the Rory Foundation has teamed up with the Mary Peters Trust to provide this support to aspiring athletes so they can fully recover and get back to the top of their game as quickly as possible."
As a result of the collaboration, young Trust-supported athletes suffering an injury will see waiting times cut from an average six months for an MRI scan, a similar length of time for physio and consultant appointments and at least nine months to a year and a half for surgery, based on a torn or ruptured cruciate ligament.
Trust chair Eilish Rutherford, a former hockey international and sports injury specialist, acknowledged: "We at the Trust are delighted with this new branch of support we can now offer.
"This will make a huge difference to our athletes.
"As a physiotherapist for over 30 years and working with athletes at four Commonwealth Games, I have been part of the treatment team and have seen first-hand the effects of injury.
"I know both the physical and mental stress an acute injury can have on athletes. I also know that a quick diagnosis can speed recovery and this in turn means less impact on the sporting life of the athlete.
"Athletes can lose funding, confidence and ability through injury. I want to thank Barry Funston, Chief Executive of the Rory Foundation, Dr Crone, Rory himself, of course, and the team at Ulster Independent Clinic for providing this support.
"A quicker diagnosis means a quicker solution and therefore the athletes are returning to competing and bringing back medals and good news to Northern Ireland."
Among those awarded the latest bursaries by the Trust, to assist with training and development costs, was 15-year-old fencer Charlotte Slater from Lisburn, who will be travelling to the European Cadet tournament in Copenhagen in December.
Charlotte said: "Thanks to the Mary Peters Trust, I'm able to do what I love and it's great to have the support of the Rory Foundation now, too, although hopefully I'll never get injured and need that support."