SWIMMING correspondent Mary Haughney received national recognition for her dedicated work at the recent virtual Federation of Irish Sports Volunteer Awards.
The Volunteers in Sport Awards, proudly supported by EBS Mortgage Masters, were created to champion the contribution, commitment and dedication of the army of 450,000 volunteers across the country who go above and beyond by giving their time to Irish sport and physical activity each year. These volunteers dedicate some 37.2m hours of volunteering across the country’s 13,000-plus sports clubs and associations every year.
Mary, is a member of Sunday’s Well Swimming Club, Douglas, and is well known to our readers, who follow her swimming column on a weekly basis.
Mary, a native of Dublin, comes from a family steeped in the tradition of volunteerism. Her late father, Michael Dunphy, was a founding member of Cuala GAA Club in Dalkey and also served on the Dublin Minor Board and Leinster Council.
Coincidently, her first cousin, Mary Donoghue also received an award at the virtual event, for her contribution to camogie in Laois. Volunteerism is truly in their genes.
While still living in Dublin, Mary was a member of the AIB Sports and Social Club, with a keen interest in camogie, badminton and amateur dramatics. An All-Ireland Inter-Firm champion at badminton, she was also one of the driving forces on the Bank’s ‘Tops of the Town’ committee.
Their show reached the All-Ireland, held at Cork Opera House in 1984, only to be beaten on the night by Wang, Limerick. Mary’s late mother Bridie was the costume designer.
Following her move to Cork in the late ’80s, she quickly became involved in the Cork branch of the bank’s Sports and Social Club, where she produced and starred in the victorious Midleton ‘Tops of the Branches’ show.
When her children were younger, she helped with the local GAA club in Charleville and served as the secretary before moving back to the city.
She took a break from the sport for a few years, but instead, volunteered on the primary school’s parent association. In her role as secretary for the association, she spearheaded a number of fundraising events.
Mary went on to represent Cork on the County Committee and soon found herself on the Board of the National Parents Council Primary, where she served as secretary for four years.
During that period her children developed a love for swimming and joined the local club in Douglas in 1999. A firm believer in supporting those who give their time to train and nurture children, she volunteered as club secretary and PRO for many years.
Her skills as a fundraiser were utilised and she then served on the Regional Committee and was the regional chairperson and president of Munster Swimming for three years.
It was here, in the world of swimming that Mary found her true vocation. Travelling to galas with her children, she quickly became aware of the need for volunteers to officiate and help with the running of the galas, and so began her official pathway.
Like most novice parents, she began working as a timekeeper and then took the relevant courses to develop the skills required to become a national judge, all the while gaining more and more experience on the pool deck.
The more she worked on the pool deck the more she enjoyed it and continued the official pathway to become a national referee in 2013. In 2017 Mary was nominated by Swim Ireland to the Pre-FINA List, which is a programme to give active referees an opportunity to work in other jurisdictions to gain experience. Mary travelled to Swansea and worked at their National Championships. She made a great impression while there and has received numerous requests to return.
The highlight of Mary’s official career came in January 2019 when she was promoted to the FINA List. This is the list of referees from across the world, from whom the officials for European, World and Olympic Games are selected. Mary travelled to Budapest in May 2019 and to the European Junior Championships in Kazan in July of that year.
Mary is also responsible for the development and training of officials in the Munster area. She is now a Swim Ireland tutor and delivers official courses to timekeepers and judges.
Mary was elected onto the board of Swim Ireland in 2016 and served as secretary for a four-year term.
She also trained as a Paralympic official and has worked at the World Series in Berlin. She was the lead national official for the European Paralympic Games held in Dublin in 2018, where she also read the Official Oath at the Opening Ceremony. She was also selected to officiate at the World Paralympic Games in London in 2019. In addition to her official role, Mary is also a Level 2 Team Manager and has been involved with many training camps at club, regional and national level.
“Without people like Mary the sport could not exist,” it was stated at the award ceremony.
“She is involved across so many different areas, driving, supporting and encouraging others to get involved. Mary will put herself forward for any sort of voluntary role and is always on the phone to offer support and advice.
“Mary knows all the Irish athletes and their achievements, and they all know her.
“There is nothing that makes her happier than being on deck amongst all the action, watching Irish swimmers do their best.
“Mary has given so much to the sport in the past 20 years and gives so generously of her time. She is a very deserving winner of this award.”