Shay pictured with the Donegal Association committee. Photo Tim Ralph.
Shay and Rebecca pictured in the Ballsbridge Hotel tonight.
International soccer keeper Shay Given announced his official retirement from football tonight in Dublin where he was honoured as the the 40th recipient of the Donegal Assocation in Dublin's Donegal Person of the Year award.
At a superb event in the Ballsbridge Hotel, Shay and his family were feted and the Lifford man was gracious in his acceptance of the accolade. He said he felt like the "most important man in Donegal" quickly adding "but I know I'm not, but that's how I feel".
He said he wanted to dedicate the award to his very special friend Pat Shovelin, the former Donegal GAA goalkeeping coach, who passed away last year.
Shay, in an eye-catching red jacket, told more than 500 guests, including many from Lifford, and among them some close friends from the worlds of music and entertainment, that he was officially announcing his retirement from football at the event because of his links with Donegal. "I started in Donegal and I felt that it would be appropriate to confirm my official retirement among my own people from Donegal here tonight," he said.
He said he had travelled to many places around the world through football but as far as he was concerned Donegal was the most special of all.
One of the most memorable moments of the evening came when Shay asked his son Shane (13) to step forward to the podium and read a special poem written by Maura Gallagher a teacher in Murlog NS. Shane read the wonderful poem perfectly and stole the show from his proud father.
A stunning video compiled by Ryan Doherty, with some material sourced by the great and hugely proud Packie Keeney who was in the audience, really captured the brilliance of Shay Given. Meanwhile, among those to entertain the huge attendance was Shay's fellow Lifford man Mickey Harte.
Shay becomes the 40th winner of the award, the very first one given in 1978 to Fr James McDyer and he joins fellow Ireland goalkeeping custodian Packie Bonner in a glittering role of honour, Packie receiving the Person of the Year award in 1990.
The rest of the world is catching on to just how much Donegal has to offer, the chairperson of the Donegal Association in Dublin told those gathered.
Elaine Caffrey said that the recent accolades the county has won shows that the world is beginning to know what a great place Donegal is.
“It seems like in recent years the rest of the world is catching on to something we have known all along, and that is just how much Donegal has to offer. Recent accolades include coolest places on the planet, nicest accent, and our hotels and beaches frequently being ranked high in the polls. I’d like to sincerely congratulate our friends from Donegal Airport at table 22, as just last week the Donegal Airport was voted as having the most scenic landing in the world.”
The president of the association, Hugh Harkin noted how Shay had always given credit to the influence his Donegal upbringing on him and he reiterated his wish to see the potential of the Donegal diaspora harnessed:
“Shay has often given credit to the role played by his Donegal upbringing in his success and has always said how proud he is of his county. The people of Donegal are also very proud of you Shay and we in the Donegal Association are proud to have you as our Donegal Person of The Year for 2017.
“Shay is, of course a member of that far flung Donegal diaspora. It is often commented on how strong the bond is between that diaspora and their native county. Many people believe there is great potential to develop that bond to the benefit of both the county and the Donegal diaspora. The challenge is how to give an opportunity to the diaspora to connect with the county and one another in a practical way.”
About Shay Given
Shay was awarded the Freedom of Donegal in 2006. He is well known locally, nationally and internationally for his soccer career.
His recent autobiography ‘Any Given Saturday’ was shortlisted as the Bord Gáis Energy Sports Book of the Year 2017.
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 1990 Donegal Person of the Year, Packie Bonner in taking his place in the Republic of Ireland goals.
Shay’s love for Donegal
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.
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 the 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.