This year, a total of 155 young people were nominated for the 20th West Cork Garda Youth Awards in association with SuperValu. This figure demonstrates the contribution made to their community by the youth of West Cork. It is the highest number of nominations ever received, an acknowledgement of the tremendous work done on the ground by the young people of West Cork. The award ceremony took place at the end of 2015 in the Maritime Hotel in Bantry.
Inspector Pat Meaney, Bandon Garda Station, Chairman of the Judging Committee, remarked “The Judging Committee would like to acknowledge the high standard of nominees from across the entire spread of West Cork. We would also like to thank the members of the public who took the time to make the nominations. An Garda Siochana would like to pay tribute to SuperValu for their sponsorship of the Youth Awards for the past 20 years.”
A total of 24 Awards were presented, and the mood at the ceremony was uplifting, as the dedication and excellence of the award winners was celebrated.
Garda Damian White, PRO for the Youth Awards, stated that “it was important to recognise that all the nominees would benefit, not just the award winners. All other nominees received a Certificate signed by their local Superintendent to highlight their nomination. Adding this to any CV will most definitely enhance it.”
Overall award winners included Rebecca McCarthy (17) from Courtmacsherry who has done voluntary work in Ghana, as well as in her local community. Conor Coughlan (13) from Ballinhassig has undergone 27 operations for a bone condition called Spondyloepiphyseal Dysplasia, yet is still involved in a variety of sporting and fundraising activities in his community. Clara Crowley (16) from Enniskeane has cared for her mother and grandmother and still finds time to volunteer at local events.
Rebecca McCarthy, Woodview, Courtmacsherry (17): Rebecca has been an active member of Barryroe Foroige for the past five years; she was chairperson for 2014/15, and led the club with great energy. She was actively involved with organising the local senior citizens party and fundraising for the ‘jeep for Jason’ campaign, which raised €1,800. Rebecca has undertaken modules one and two in the Albert Schweitzer Leadership for Life Programme, which equips young with leadership skills. In August 2015, Rebecca spent two weeks volunteering in Ghana, working with underprivileged children and visiting orphanages. Rebecca had to fundraise for this trip, which involved organising a teenage disco, table quiz, and a bucket collection. She has also fundraised for the Mercy Hospital, Courtmacsherry RNLI, Pink Ribbon Cancer charity, amongst other causes. She is also on the student council in her school, and is involved in her local church as a volunteer. Inspirational commitment to her community it has to be said.
Conor Coughlan, Station Steps, Ballinhassig (13): In 2007, aged five, Conor was diagnosed with Spondyloepiphyseal Dysplasia, which affects his bone structure. To date, Conor has undergone a total of 27 operations, including on a clubbed foot, on both hips, and having his spine lengthened by the insertion of growing rods. Despite his challenges, Conor has been involved in a variety of sporting activities, including cycling, hurling with his local Ballinhassig GAA Club, swimming, and athletics. Conor has also joined ‘Rebel Wheelers’, which is a multisport group of children with physical disabilities. Conor has acted as a representative of Enable Ireland at high profile events, and has been the ambassador of Ronald McDonald House, where families stay when children are visiting Crumlin Children’s Hospital, and Conor has raised funds for both of these. Conor has been also been involved in fundraising for Cork City Hospitals Children’s Club. Conor’s determination and positive spirit are an example to us all as to what can be achieved with perseverance.
Clara Crowley, Enniskeane, (16): Clara is a very active member of her local community. Clara was chairperson of Ballinascarthy Foroige for 2104/25, and she set about identifying how she could make her locality a better place to live. Clara organised an outing for Cope, at which she arranged for Donal Walsh to come and speak about his son Donal, and the ‘LiveLife’ campaign. Clara is a great support to her mother who has battled ill health and takes on extra responsibility at home. She also takes special care of her elderly grandmother who lives in their family home and her kind and caring nature is very evident. Clara has volunteered at events with her local Ballinascarthy GAA Club, as well as being a very able and active sportswoman herself, representing her club and her school with distinction. She has fundraised for many worthy causes, including the West Cork Rapid Response ‘Jeep for Jason’ campaign. Always enthusiastic, Clara has great energy which lifts the spirits of those around her.
Liam O’Driscoll, Derrigra, Ballineen, (18): In 2015, Liam was one of only 20 winners of the National Rotary Ireland Leadership competition. He also represented Ireland in the Euroscola debates in Strasbourg, where teenagers get to become an MEP for the day. Liam is currently part of the Albert Schweitzer Leadership for Life programme, developing his leadership skills and his passion for community service. He is on the National Executive of Foroige, and has been chairperson of Foroige’s West Cork since 2014, as well as having been active in his local club in Ballineen from 2010-2014. Liam has completed the Bronze Gaisce Award, and is currently completing his Silver Award. He was awarded a ‘highly commended’ prize in the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition 2014 for his project on lowering the voting age to 16, and for this project, Liam also won the John Hooper Medal for Statistics from the Central Statistics Office. Liam has shown a diverse range of talents, and has made an outstanding contribution to his community.
Tolly Franklin, Dromreagh, Durrus, Bantry, (17): Tolly has been an active member of Scouting Ireland. He undertook the Crean Challenge in 2104, and he also went on a Scouting Ireland expedition to the Swiss Alps earlier this year. He has taken part in the Pony Club tetrathlon, involving swimming, running, riding and shooting. Tolly was also selected as part of the International Young Riders Panel, training to represent Ireland. Hehas actively fundraised for scouting groups locally and has been a regular visitor to Deerpark Nursing Home where he volunteers to play piano for the residents there. Tolly has volunteered as a leader with hill walking groups, as a lifesaving instructor, and has cycled the Kerry Way. He has also participated in the International Schools Regatta in sailing. Tolly has made a great deal of difference to the lives of many people, and he works tirelessly on behalf of a variety of community projects.
Pa Hurley, Main Street, Innishannon, (17): Pa has made an enormous impact on the wider community in Innishannon, where his determination to succeed and outstanding spirit are well recognised. Fighting against the odds in many ways, Pa has put his energy and talents to great use, and he became a pivotal member of the Valley Rovers football team; in 2014 he was vice-captain when the under 16A team that won the County Final. Pa has progressed further, and this year, he won an under 21 County football medal with Valley Rovers. He has done the club proud by being selected as a member of the Cork under 17 development squad. Pa has overcome many challenges along the way, and his true success is measured not by his achievements on the field of play, but rather by the esteem in which he is held in by all those that come into contact with him. He is held in the highest regard, and he has shown a level of maturity well beyond his years.
SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Sean Murphy, Skeagh, Skibbereen, (18): Despite being born 12 weeks prematurely, undergoing a heart operation at just 16 days old, and being diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Sean has never let these issues hold him back. Sean has been involved with Ilen Rovers club from an early age, and was part of their squad up to 2013. He is a valued member of Aughadown Foroige, where he is a key participant, and willingly gives of his time to others. Sean played a key role in the care of his grandmother when she suffered from ill health and when she passed away in 2009, Sean was a great source of strength to those around him. He has raised funds for Enable Ireland, and the Cope Foundation. Every year, Sean takes part in the St. Patrick’s Day walk in Aughadown, which raises funds for local charities. He has recently passed his driving test, in a manual gear box, which will allow him greater independence. He is never one to complain and has a great attitude to life.
Niamh Byrne, Eltons Crescent, Kinsale, (19 years): Niamh has shown incredible determination to make the most of her life. When she was seven years old, her mother was diagnosed with cancer, and Niamh was a tremendous support, as her mother underwent treatment. She left school early, as her mother developed a further health complication, so Niamh gave her mother full time care, and did so selflessly. When her grandmother was diagnosed with an end-of-life condition, Niamh acted as a steadfast support, which required practical caring needs, sometimes at night, but she was always at hand to be there for those around her. Niamh made a brave decision to return to education in 2014 when she enrolled into the Kinsale College of Further Education, and studied Drama. She has been a diligent student, achieving distinctions in all aspects of the course. Niamh has accomplished so much, despite difficult circumstances. Her determination to achieve her personal goals is a credit to her, and her gracious nature is an inspiration to those around her.
Charlotte Davis Ryan, Baltimore, (13 years): On June 30, 2015, Charlotte was fishing close to the Beacon in Baltimore, with her father Barry Ryan, her brother Barry Davis Ryan and his girlfriend Niamh O’Connor. A swell developed, and washed Barry jnr and Niamh into the water. Barry snr then entered the water to attempt to rescue them, leaving 12-year-old Charlotte to alert the emergency services. Despite the difficulty of the situation, Charlotte climbed the rocks, and alerted the emergency services. The bodies of Niamh and Barry snr were recovered quickly, but Charlotte’s brother Barry was missing for over two weeks. During this time, Charlotte was an outstanding support to her mother. She showed tremendous bravery in returning to the scene in Baltimore and she guided the search operation for her brother’s body. Following her instructions, Barry jnrs body was located by the search team. Charlotte displayed enormous courage to set aside her own emotions in order to assist in the recovery of her brother’s body, and her courage in the face of adversity was remarkable.
Clonakilty District Winner — Finula O Driscoll, Church Cross, Skibbereen (20): Finula is very involved in sport with her school, and her club GAA Ilen Rovers. She has achieved a variety of honours and success. This year, Finula gave freely of her time and energy when she volunteered to assist in the Cork and Ross Pilgrimage to Lourdes. She was magnificent on the Pilgrimage and a help to everybody who had any needs. Her caring nature was evident, and she was always prepared to listen to the problems of other people. Finula left a very positive mark on all those that she came into contact with and the organisers of the Pilgrimage were delighted with her contribution. Finula has been active in raising funds for many worthy causes, including the Irish Heart Foundation, CoAction, and being involved in collections for her club, Ilen Rovers.
Macroom District Winner — Nicole Desmond, Balineadig, Farran (17): Nicole has displayed a very caring nature in looking after neighbours and relatives who are less fortunate than her, and who are very grateful for her assistance. She calls on a daily basis to her elderly aunt who lives alone, and makes sure that she is well cared for. Nicole has been accepted by the Hope Foundation to go to Calcutta next February, and for this she had to undergo a rigourous application process and interview. The Hope Foundation looks after the street children in Calcutta, to see after their housing and rehabilitation needs. Nicole has undertaken great fundraising efforts, and to date she has succeeded in raising €5,000 which will go to benefit children who are less fortunate than her. She is very involved in her local GAA club, Eire Og, and takes a full part in club activities, which includes raising funds at various events. Nicole has a great outlook, and is a positive influence on those around her.
Bantry District (two winners) — Katie O’Shea Adrigole, Beara (19):Katie has received the Eacht Award in school, which is in recognition of her leadership and initiative. She has successfully completed the Bronze and Silver Gaisce Awards. She is vice president of the student council her school, where she has been involved in a school project to promote positive mental health in schools and the school received an amber flag for this initiative. Katie has volunteered her time with CoAction, assisting with summer camps and Saturday clubs for children with intellectual disabilities. She is also an accomplished Irish dancer and has given of her time to entertain the residents of the local Community Hospital. Katie has also been very generous with her time when volunteering with Adrigole Community Alert, where she helps with organising social outings for the elderly. Katie has a great understanding of the dangers of loneliness and isolation for the elderly in a rural community.
David O’Driscoll, Millcove, Castletownbere, (18): David was an instrumental influence in the group that won the All-Ireland Ideation title for the project Smoke Alarm Band. David was also very involved in the positive mental project – You Are Not Alone, which was a booklet for parents and students around the theme of resilience. David was also part of the Life Leeches group who were awarded under the Young Social Innovators project. David acts as a mentor to younger students in school, and is also part of the school’s inter-generational project, which links up the elderly with young people. David is a volunteer with Castletownbere Hospital and he is a member of the local RNLI lifeboat crew. He also assisted in organising the Darkness Into Light walk locally and he gives of his time with the Tidy Towns group. David is also a member of the local conference of St Vincent de Paul, recognising that others are less fortunate than he is.
Bandon District (three winners). – Shannon Curran, Richmond Court, Bandon (16 years): Shannon has assisted her family and other volunteers to organise the charity walk ‘Make Your Mark On Cancer’. This event was established following the death of her father, Mark. The event is a walk from the Viaduct in Cork, to Bandon, and it raises funds for cancer research. The event has grown every year; and this year alone, it succeeded in raising over €40,000, which goes to the Mercy Hospital Foundation. Shannon plays an active part in the event, handing out and collecting sponsorship cards, helping with registration, distributing t-shirts, as well as participating in the walk and raising money herself. Shannon has also volunteered with the remodelling of the local youth café, as well as helping with the Bandon Music Festival. As part of the Funky Fish Youth Café, Shannon has been a very positive influence on her peers and she has been a willing helper in any event held there.
Dylan and Tristan Chambers (twins) Thornfields, Bandon (13 years): Dylan and Tristan were very involved in the care of their father when he had a brain tumour. They took on extra responsibility around the house and were a great support to their mother at a very difficult time. They assisted in the care of their father for over three years, until he passed away. When their grandfather became ill recently, they again showed maturity beyond their years, and showed their caring nature in how they helped again. They set up the St. Patrick’s Youth Choir over three years ago and they have been instrumental in their expansion of its membership. They have recruited many new members, and they are of great help to the organisers of the choir, who are extremely grateful for their assistance. Dylan and Tristan have faced much adversity in their lives, but they have shown tremendous determination and their positive outlook is a source of pride to their family and community.
OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO YOUTH AWARD
Des Prendergast, Bandon: Des came to Bandon as a member of An Garda Siochana in 1973, and he recognised that there was a need for services for young people in the town. He was a founder member of Bandon Youth Centre, which was originally set in the Orchid Ballroom, later moving to Bandon Town Hall. The Town Hall was in a state of disrepair and Des was part of the group that arranged its restoration. Des became one of the five trustees that oversaw the running of the Hall and he is still a trustee to this day. Des was part of the group that built the basketball and tennis courts to give young people an outlet. Initially opening one night a week, demand for its use saw that rise to three to four nights a week. In 1975, Des began to run and organise teenage discos in the Hall, which ran for many years. Des introduced the Bandon Age Card system in 1975, which was well ahead of its time in national terms. Des has been recognised by the community in Bandon by receiving the Bandon Young Citizen Award in 1977 and the Bandon Distinguished Citizen Award in 1988, as recognition for his work for the community and young people of the town. Des is an active member of Bandon Rugby Club, where he has trained underage teams, and although he retired from An Garda Siochana in 2004, Des has maintained his involvement in the Town Hall and the wider community.
Rathmore Social Action Group — Jelly Murphy, Liam O’Riordan, Sean Sheehan, Rachael McGillicuddy, Michelle O’Sullivan, Maura O’Connor, Michael Twomey (all 15/16): This group took part in the October Challenge, which involved a two-day walking challenge, during which they raised €11,000. €8,000 of this has gone towards St Joseph’s Day Care Centre, which caters for older adults in the community, and €3,000 has gone Mary’s Meals, an organisation that provides healthy meals to school going in Africa. Every Friday, they organise a social club for young people, and organise discos throughout the year. In the course of running these events, they have raised over €12,000 in the past year, which has gone towards other Social Action Group projects in the locality. The group also participated in the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle, and the Rathmore Social Action Group was one of the beneficiaries this year, with funds received going towards the restoration of the Presentation Convent, and the provision of additional houses and apartments for older people in their locality.