Fitting Honour For Disability Football Coach
Why Reggie Dornan was the right man to receive this year’s Alder Sweeney Award
Newcastle United Foundation Disability Football Development Officer Reggie Dornan honoured at the charity’s Annual Award’s Dinner on Tuesday night, receiving one of the most prestigious awards on the night, the Alder Sweeney Award from Manager Rafa Benitez.
The Alder Sweeney Award was introduced in memory of John Alder and Liam Sweeney; Magpies supporters who tragically lost their lives in the MH17 disaster in Ukraine while en route to the club’s pre-season games in New Zealand in 2014. The award recognises a person or organisation that has contributed to grassroots football in the North East. Reggie was nominated for providing opportunities to over 1000 disabled footballers in the North East.
Reggie was born in Belfast into a large footballing family where his uncles and brothers all played the game, including brother Alan who was captain of Linfield FC. Reggie himself played semi-professional for Bangor FC between 1981 and 1999. He even played in the UEFA Cup and European Cup Winner’s Cup, narrowly missing out on a place in the first round proper in 1992 where he would have faced PSG.
He decided to hang up his boots at 40 but, unable to leave football behind for good, he took up a coaching job at Bangor, looking after the reserves. In 1999 Reggie got what he calls his ‘lucky break.’ He moved to Division One outfit Dundela FC as Head Coach, winning numerous trophies. It was there that he took his UEFA B licence and eventually got his ‘A’ Licence in 2006.
From there he became Head Coach for Northern Ireland in the UEFA Regions Cup, a football competition for amateur teams in Europe, played in tournaments all over Europe between 2002 and 2006.
2006 was the turning point in Reggie’s football career. A deaf friend he met while on the UEFA A course, mentioned to him that Belfast Deaf United needed a hearing coach. Hesitant at first because he had no experience in working with players with disabilities, Reggie was eventually persuaded to take the job. The team went on a winning streak, winning the British Deaf Cup. From there Reggie became coach of the Irish National Deaf Team with Manager Thomas Coyle, eventually finishing sixth in the Deaf Olympics in Bulgaria in 2013.
It was a chance weekend away in Newcastle with Dundela in 2007 that Reggie met his now wife Sarah. Sarah shared Reggie’s passion for football, her dad John Thompson even played for Newcastle United’s reserves in the 1960s. For four years Reggie commuted between Belfast, where he worked as a Sales Director, and Newcastle.
It was not long before he heard about Newcastle United Foundation and started coaching at the Foundation’s weekend soccer schools. When the full time post of Disability Football Development Officer came up in July 2011 he jumped at it.
And the rest, as they say, is history. Under Reggie’s stewardship the programme has flourished. Starting with two after school clubs and four special needs schools, the programme now works in 44 special schools and 25 coaching centres for both adults and children, covering almost every impairment group from visually impaired, deaf, Down’s Syndrome and most recently Framed Football. His passion, drive and commitment has given opportunities to thousands of youngsters who all now proudly represent Newcastle United.
“On behalf of the families of John Alder and Liam Sweeney, it is an honour to receive this award. I always say I have the best job at the Foundation. My pride comes from watching the players flourish and develop. If they just want to turn up and play, make new friends, get fit and have fun or if they want to play for England, we will help them achieve their goals.”
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