Posted: 5 months ago

Inspirational camogie ref Orla Donnelly is latest Sport NI SportMaker award winner

DERRYLAUGHAN Kevin Barrys GAC member Orla Donnelly has been named Sport NI’s SportMaker Young Technical Official of the Year.

The SportMaker Young Technical Official of the Year award recognises the important work carried out by an up and coming referee, umpire and /or official and the contribution which they make to their sport.

Orla began officiating Camogie at club level but is now a regular at provincial and national fixtures, becoming an inspiring role model for young women in the sport.

Becoming an official is daunting, but this didn’t stop Orla who has progressed through the pathway to become a well-known and respected figure on the pitch. Orla showcases her passion for Camogie through officiating and still finds time to get on the pitch as a player.

Sport NI surprised Orla with her award whilst she was officiating and she later commented: It feels unbelievable. I’ve been watching it on Facebook and seeing all the awards coming out. I didn’t think my name would have been chosen for this award.

“I started officiating at the Go Games, so that was the under sixes and under eights. I just worked my way up and started refereeing for the club and then I moved onto doing bigger games in county.

“I then got in touch with Julie (O’Neill at Ulster Camogie) and she reached out for me to be lineswomen for Ulster Camogie. Julie then put me forward for the Peter Downey Academy at Croke Park. I done that academy and was welcomed onto the national panel, which is refereeing for Croke Park.” 

Julie O’Neill from Ulster Camogie, who nominated Orla for the award, said: “Orla just loves it and she’s just what we need in Camogie.

“We need more female referees and more young people. We need to show that the likes of Orla and a lot of other young people, young females, are out there doing it very well. Orla is definitely one of the people who deserved to be nominated for that reason.”

Orla started at the bottom of the officiating ladder in Camogie and is now rising through the ranks. The sky’s the limit for Orla,who insisted: “I want to keep pushing on, I want to achieve my fitness test for the Championship, I just passed it for the league. I want to keep going, I want to take on as many games as possible.

“I’ve done fourth professional in Croke Park two years ago, and I would love to referee in Croke Park. That’s my dream, that’s my goal.”

Richard Archibald, Interim CEO, Sport NI congratulated Orla on her award, saying: “The SportMaker Awards are an opportunity to recognise our unsung sporting heroes who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make sport happen within our communities.

“Young officials like Orla are at the heart of local sport, providing the opportunities for people to compete and enjoy sport. Orla volunteers her time to ensure Camogie is available across all age groups by officiating games.

“Well done Orla – you are a SportMaker!”

The Sport NI SportMaker Awards give the sporting community the opportunity to showcase their achievements and give special thanks to coaches, officials and volunteers who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make sport happen. There are 12 award categories recognising achievement at all levels of sports participation, from grassroots through to high performance.

SportMaker Young Technical Official of the Year Orla Donnelly with Ulster Camogie representatives and Sport NI’s David Smyth (right) celebrating her SportMaker award