Former Ireland soccer star Shay Given was tonight named Donegal Person of the Year for 2017.
The Lifford-born star follows in the footsteps of the likes of fellow Ireland goalkeeper Packie Bonner, Jim McGuinness, Patsy McGonagle, Brian McEniff Danny McDaid and Fr Michael Sweeney as sports people who have been accorded with the accolade.
The award will be presented to Shay by the Donegal Association at a glamorous function at the Ballsbridge Hotel in Dublin on March 3rd.
Shay, aged 41, who played for a number of tops Premiership clubs including Balckburn, Manchester City, Newcastle and Aston Villa as well as Celtic, released his autobiography ‘Any Given Saturday’ last year.
Chairperson of the Donegal Association Elaine Caffrey said Shay was a very popular choice with the judges.
“Throughout his long and illustrious career Shay has never forgotten his roots, his hometown and his county,” she said.
“He is quick to say that every time he donned a shirt as a professional footballer for Club or Country, he just wanted to make the people of Donegal and Ireland proud and he still takes every opportunity to promote Donegal in glowing terms.
“On behalf of the Donegal Association I would like to extend a sincere thanks to our 2016 Person of the Year Stephen McCahill who has done phenomenal work during his term as Person of the Year in assisting the people of Donegal where possible and in promoting everything Donegal has to offer. We all wish him the very best for the future.”
The announcement took place in The Black Door Piano Bar on Harcourt Street in Dublin.
Their citation reads: Shay was born in 1976 and is the son of Séamus and the late Agnes Given. Shay’s mother Agnes sadly passed away when he was five years of age.
Shay started his soccer career with Lifford Celtic and at the age of 15 he moved to Glasgow Celtic and later to Blackburn, Swindon, Newcastle, Sunderland, Manchester City, Aston Villa and Stoke City.
At the age of 19 Shay was called up by Mick McCarthy to play for the Republic of Ireland, this kick-started Shay’s international career which lasted 16 years. He followed in the footsteps of former Donegal Person of the Year, Packie Bonner in taking his place in the Republic of Ireland goals.
Shay has spoken in the past of the fact that he owes a great debt of gratitude to his upbringing in Donegal. Shay has said that some of the highlights of his youth include catching fish, using jumpers for goalposts, building bonfires for Halloween and gathering potatoes for his Dad.
He has spoken of the many wonderful qualities of the county including the beautiful landscapes to the accents to the people themselves. In Shay’s recent Late Late Show appearance he spoke about Donegal in glowing terms and was proud to promote our county to wider audiences. Shay was awarded the Freedom of Donegal in 2006.
Shay’s father Séamus played Gaelic Football for Donegal which probably explains Shay’s keen interest in Donegal GAA and why he took time to train with the Donegal Squad in 2014.Shay shared this love of Donegal GAA and goalkeeping with his late friend Pat Shovelin who passed away in October of last year. Shay shared a lovely tribute to his best friend on social media describing the heart break of his passing.
Shay is no stranger to charity work either having been part of a charity football match that raised over £200,000 for the Grenfall Victims, he added his signature to a golf bag in Letterkenny to raise funds for Bumbleance Service. Shay opened Donegal Centre for Independent Living in 2015 and donated personal memorabilia for an auction. He was a contributor to the “Dear Sebastian” book and wrote a very personal letter. Shay raised in excess of £1million for cancer charities which are close to his heart after his mother’s death. This just reflects some of Shay’s charity work and conveys his willingness and support to charitable organisations.
President of the Donegal Association Hugh Harkin said: “Shay Given has been at the top of his profession and has attributed much of his success to his upbringing in Donegal.
“Shay has shown great determination, courage and honesty all through his successful career.
“He has also been extremely generous in sharing the fruits of his success, especially to cancer related charities which are very close to Shay’s heart.
“In fact, I believe that Shay is a personality who epitomises the best in Donegal. We are very proud to have Shay Given as Donegal Person of the Year 2017 and are delighted that he is being added to the list of 39 illustrious members of Donegal Persons of the Year.”
Last year’s winner of the Donegal Person of the Year, Stephen Mc Cahill attended the Official Announcement and reflected on his time as the recipient of this prestigious award.
He stated that he was honoured to be considered in the same line of distinguished people from his area like Jim Mc Guinness, Donegal Person 2012 and Charlie Bennett, Donegal Person of the Year 1993.
Mr McCahill said: “The Donegal Association in Dublin is an amazing organisation with a brilliant committee.”
Shay Given will be inaugurated as The Donegal Person of the Year 2017 at the Donegal Person of the Year Gala Ball on Saturday, 3rd of March in The Ballsbridge Hotel, Dublin 4. This promises to be a very special night. Tickets are limited so please contact 087 255 4966 or 087 641 9419 to reserve your tickets or contact any committee member.