Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland sporting stars hail work of charities at annual bash

By Stewart Robson

Sporting stars from across Northern Ireland attended a gala festive lunch yesterday in aid of charity.

The annual event at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast, celebrates the work of the Mary Peters Trust and Sport Changes Life.

The gala occasion included guests from the worlds of boxing, motor racing and football.

Actor and big Coleraine fan James Nesbitt hosted the event.

Dame Mary Peters, who has headed her trust for over 40 years, said she was proud of what it had achieved.

"Young people want to emulate our sportsmen and women and we hope we've inspired them to get involved. Success breeds success," she said.

Jonathan Rea, who won the Mary Peters Trust International Recognition Award, said he was in awe of the stars who had turned out, despite his own achievements.

"Today's event is great. I've spent the last four weeks living out of a suitcase and was in Japan to launch a new Kawasaki bike", Rea said. "I might be one of the only sportsmen in the world to bring my wife and two kids with me, but it's important. Although I'm thankfully heading home to the Isle of Man tonight."

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill said the opportunities the trust gave to young people were vital.

"It's invaluable. You see the people who have benefited and the role it's played in their development and career as well as receiving the funding they needed at crucial times. It's so important for young athletes," he said.

Other sporting stars in attendance included boxers Jamie Conlan and Ryan Burnett, who said the sporting talent in the province was "incredible".

Mark Montgomery, who was Northern Ireland's flag bearer at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and is currently a head coach at local club Simply Judo, praised the trust's work.

"We want to get kids inspired and to get a smile on their faces," he said.

"Knowing success could be there for them is really the best thing about being a coach at the club."

Superbike champ Jonathan Rea's wife tells TV cameras how she keeps him grounded. See Page 15

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