A LEADER among Birmingham’s GAA community has been nominated for a BBC West Midlands Sports Awards.
Kildare native Denis Neenan is shortlisted among five nominees for the Unsung Hero category in the annual awards - which celebrate the dedication of individuals and clubs to grassroots sports in the region.
“It feels pretty good to be nominated,” the Erin go Bragh GAA club secretary told The Irish Post. “It’s been good for the club and for Gaelic sports in the Midlands.”
He added: “To be shortlisted to the last five, to get that far and to be in this arena with the other people shortlisted, who are people who have dedicated their lives to whatever they are doing, is really great.”
Neenan, who was born in the Curragh, came to Birmingham with his family at the age of 12. He has been involved with Erin go Bragh ever since – formerly as a player and now as the club’s secretary.
He also manages the club’s reserve Gaelic football team and their soccer team, which he set up two years ago.
And although he has a busy day job as an engineer for National Express in Birmingham, Neenan also finds time to help with Erin go Bragh’s camogie and mixed rounders teams.
Recently he helped set up the club’s charitable branch, the Erin go Bragh Development Association Ltd, to “encourage people to play Gaelic sports and celebrate Irish culture, but also to celebrate and encourage people in all sports,” he explained.
Consistently committed to bringing opportunities to young people across the West Midlands, Neenan previously ran an open award group for the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme and claims he is always trying to find new ways to give something back to the community.
“People helped me when I was growing up; they gave me the opportunity to do all of these activities,” he said. “That’s why I do it.”
The 60-year was also one of the founding members of the GAA for Africa festival, which launched in Birmingham in 1985 and raised more than £70,000 for impoverished children in more than 10 years of operation.
“When Bob Geldof did the first Live Aid concert a group of us here at the time were galvanised by what he had done, so we set up a GAA for Africa festival a year later - which was a combination of Gaelic sports and live music,” Neenan explained. “We raised more than £70,000 for Save the Children over many years running that event – it was fabulous,” he added.
On November 27 Denis Neenan and his supporters from Erin go Bragh will attend the BBC West Midlands Sports Awards ceremony at the Holte Suite at Villa Park in Birmingham, where the winners of seven awards categories will be announced.
“We are looking forward to it, I'm sure it will be a fun night,” Neenan added.