'Mum is my role model... she had to overcome so many obstacles'
Irish Football Association director Michael Boyd (39) is looking forward to spoiling the two special women in his life on Mother’s Day tomorrow — his wife of 16 years, Cathy, and his mother, Jackie, a retired university lecturer. He tells Karen Ireland why his mum transforming her own life has been his inspiration
He is one of the most influential and best-known figures in Northern Ireland sport, but Michael Boyd says he wouldn't be half the man he is today if it wasn't for the love and support of his mother, Jackie Gramleese.
Michael - director of football development at the Irish Football Association (IFA) - learnt all he knows about teamwork while growing up at home in Belfast with his three brothers - Daniel (now 43), John (47) and David (49).
"Growing up, we didn't have very much. My mum would talk now about how difficult times were, but I never remember it being like that at the time. My childhood was rich and full of love and fun," says Michael, the father of two girls - Rachel (3) and Olivia (1).
"Now that I am a parent myself, I can't imagine what it must have been like for my mum bringing the four of us up."
Although he has no recollection of it, Michael - who helped transform the IFA's image during 13 years as its community relations officer - explains that his father, Denis, left the family home when he was just two years old and he only saw him on and off for a few years until he was nine.
"I am the baby of the family and my memories are all just of me and my brothers and our mum. We were a team," says Michael.
"Mum did everything for us. In the early days, she even put her career on hold to bring us up."
Pregnant with her first child, David, while she was studying for her A-levels, Jackie didn't finish secondary school.
But, after her husband left, she decided she wanted a better life for herself and her boys and so she decided to go back to college and study for her exams.
"Mum worked so hard and got the qualifications she needed to go to Jordanstown," says Michael.
"It must have been difficult for her to study with all of us under her feet, but she did it.
"I remember going on what seemed like a really long journey on the bus one day from the other side of Belfast to get to Jordanstown with mum. I was so excited and the place seemed enormous. I even got my own student card."
Michael - director of football development at the IFA since 2013 - recalls how, at one stage, not only was his mum looking after the boys and studying, she was also holding down two part-time jobs to support her young family.
"My wife, Cathy, and I both work and share the responsibility of looking after our two daughters and it is tough enough. I don't know how mum managed it - and she always made things fun for us," he says.
"I've always loved football and she took us to our first Northern Ireland international match. Northern Ireland were playing England at Windsor Park - it was a fantastic experience and a memory I will always cherish.
"I got the bug then and I knew I wanted to work for the IFA when I grew up."
He attributes succeeding in his boyhood dream to Jackie's strength and tenacity.
"Mum worked so hard. Not only did she get her degree, but she also did a PhD and went on to become a lecturer at the University of East Anglia. She achieved her goals and taught me that I could do the same," he says.
"My mum is my role model - she overcame so many obstacles. She was always helping others and being part of the community.
"I remember her onstage one time, taking part in a community drama. She makes me want to help others through my role with the IFA.
"It is because of her that I am doing what I am doing today. I am privileged to be in a job I love and serving the community in the way I do."
Michael says, growing up, his maternal grandmother, Nelly, was a tremendous support and was always helping out from the sidelines. Now his mum is doing the same with all eight of her grandchildren.
"She is a wonderful support to Cathy and I and the girls love her. She spends as much time with them as she can. I speak to mum every day and we see her at least once a week," he says.
Michael says he will be spending this Mother's Day... eating.
"I will be taking Cathy and the girls out for brunch in Belfast and around St George's Market.
"Then, in the afternoon, I'll be meeting up with mum and one of my brothers and his family to eat some more."