The Board

Dr Suresh Tharma FRCOG

Chairman of the Board and Director

Dr Suresh Tharma FRCOG is a Malaysian born Northern Ireland resident of 24 years who regards Belfast as his home. He was an eminent Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist for 15 years but is now a leading business leader in Northern Ireland. He founded the 3fivetwo Group which is Northern Ireland’s largest private healthcare company in 2003 with a vision of providing local people with a choice of world leading healthcare services on their doorstep.

Today the Group comprises the flagship private hospital Kingsbridge Belfast, its sister hospital Kingsbridge Sligo; its public sector contracting business 3fivetwo Medical; 3fivetwo Training Academy, its health training arm; Cosmetech facial aesthetic clinics in Belfast, Holywood and Chelsea; H3 Health insurance, a provider of private health insurance and Sweeney Opticians and Hearing care; a retail chain of opticians and audiology services. Dr Tharma is also involved in development of pioneering telemedicine services the UK and the USA. In 2016; Dr Tharma was an Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist for Ireland. He was appointed Chairman of Sport Changes Life in April 2018; a charity dedicated to improving the lives of young people through sport, social engagement and mentorship.

Gareth Maguire

CEO and Co-Founder of Sport Changes Life

CEO Gareth Maguire has been at the forefront of the Sport Changes Life movement since the pilot of the Victory Scholar Program in University of Ulster in 2007.

There has been 28 Victory Scholars in total since its launch in Sport Changes Life, formerly USNI Sport. The idea of bringing elite scholar athletes from America to earn a Masters and at the same time work in the local community and raise the aspirations of young people in sport, all while playing the sport they love came from Co-Founders CEO Gareth Maguire, Professor Deirdre Brennan at the Ulster University and International business man Mark Marais.

CEO Gareth Maguire has lead the way with his vision to help develop basketball and change the lives of young people of Ireland through sport developing EHOOPS Programs and Sports Programs with his wife Deirdre. The Victory Scholar program has gone from strength to strength in the past number of years with a rebrand of the company in early 2012 to Sport Changes Life.

Professor Deirdre Brennan

Founder of Sport Changes Life and Director

Deirdre joined Ulster University as a staff member in 1992 and is based in the School of Sport. She holds a BA Hons Sport & Leisure Studies, a PGCE (Physical Education), an MA Leisure Studies and a PhD. As well as leading teaching and course development in the area of physical education Deirdre established and is Director of the award winning Ulster University Sports Outreach Unit which is dedicated to the design, development and delivery of physical activity and health Programs to young people in areas of greatest disadvantage. Her Sports Outreach Programs are central to the Ulster Universities’ community engagement and widening access strategies. They are delivered by a body of 200 student volunteers with the annual contribution to the sport and leisure industry in Northern Ireland estimated to be in the region of £500,000. Deirdre pioneered the Universities’ Talented Athlete Entry Program as well as the Victory Scholar Program

Mark Marais

Founder of Sport Changes Life and Director

Mark is a Zimbabwean who spent six years in London before moving to Belfast since 1993. He is married to Marcella, who has been involved with SCL from its inception, and has two daughters Louise and Emily.

Having been very fortunate to grow up in a sport mad environment he believes in the power of sport to bring out the best in people. Whilst at school during the turbulent time that Rhodesia transformed to Zimbabwe, Mark saw first hand how sport helped to break down racial tensions and to unite the pupils in his school.

Mark played cricket, rugby and water-polo when younger and now frustrates himself on the golf course. He is very proud to be one of the founders of Sport Changes Life and is keen to see it continue to develop and in time to make an impact in Africa.

Catherine Waterworth

Sport Changes Life Company Secretary & Director

Holding an MSc in Business Improvement from UUJ & a Fellow of the Institute of Administrative Management, Catherine is Director of Corporate Assurance at Connswater Homes, a not-for-profit housing association, where as a member of the senior management team she leads and influences strategy & also has responsibility for corporate governance, internal audit, housing management, property maintenance, administration & business improvement strategies.

Catherine has first-hand experience, and is fully cognisant of, the difficulties and challenges that come with working in divided communities, interface areas and the insular nature of segregated communities in Northern Ireland. Committed to equality of opportunity for all, Catherine believes that we all need to give something back to society if we want to bring about the changes required for all young people to be in the position to have the opportunity to be employable and reach their potential to be the best that they can be.

Alan Gibson

Sport Changes Life Director & Chair of US Board

Alan Gibson is Founder and CEO of Braxton Consulting LLC, a US based business supporting clients across business development, coaching, strategy and in market support.

With over 35 years’ experience in the food industry, latterly as Chief Commercial Officer at Devenish Nutrition and prior as Moy Park UK&I Director,

Alan is someone who had led, managed and effectively delivered significant change, helping deliver market leading performance.

He has been a Director of Sport Changes Life Foundation since 2017, and in 2023 assumed the Chairman role of the US Sport Changes Life Board. Alan is resident in West Chester Pennsylvania.


Joanne McNeill

Sport Changes Life Director

Joanne founded her PR and Marketing Communications business over a decade ago and has 25 years’ experience of delivering public relations campaigns and strategies for a range of high profile businesses, global brands and local organisations.

 As a PR practitioner, she is regarded as having unrivalled knowledge and contacts within consumer and B2B sectors, and specialises in healthcare and sports media, working with them on a regular basis to deliver high impact coverage for a variety of clients on events, sponsored athletes and creative initiatives.

 Joanne has supported clients and world class athletes in their nominations for many awards and accolades, including for BBC Sports Personality of the Year as well as brokering book deals and sponsorships on their behalf.  

 Married with four children, Joanne is one of 40 female business women signed up to the Groundworks NI initiative to mentor women who wish to progress their careers, she is a member of GIVE INC, Northern Ireland’s first ever giving circle which has raised over £75k for local causes, and a committee member of Darkness Into Light, an all-Ireland fundraising initiative to help raise awareness of and tackle the stigma of suicide and self-harm.

Nick McCullough

Sport Changes Life Director

Nick is a Managing Director for Manfreight Ltd a large logistics and transport company in Northern Ireland. Previously he was a Managing Director at DFDS, Europe’s largest Shipping and Logistics Company based in Copenhagen .

He holds a BSc (Hons) in Transport, graduating from the University of Ulster and later returned to the University to lecture part time.

Nick is heavily involved in promoting the wider logistics & transport industry and is a committee member and past Chairman of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) in Northern Ireland. He also sits on the Logistics UK Council for Northern Ireland.

In recent years he has advised Government on industry issues around Brexit and the Northern Ireland protocol.

He is married to Laura and has two sons Adam and Matthew. He loves travelling with his family.

Aidan Larkin

Sport Changes Life Director

Proud to have been born and raised in North Belfast, Aidan Larkin is a former criminal investigator turned asset manager, international consultant and lecturer who recently founded his new global business, Asset Reality, managing and selling seized assets around the world.  He firmly believes in ‘making crime pay for society’ and has a successful track record in doing just that through the many anti-corruption initiatives and projects he has been involved with internationally, as well as consulting on behalf of the United Nations across multiple continents. In 2019 he had over 200 flights visiting governments – everywhere from Bermuda to Brisbane.

When assets are seized from criminals, Aidan’s company’s role is to help manage the process on the government’s behalf – everything from supercars to houses, boats & planes – he was actually the first auctioneer in the world to sell seized Bitcoin. He appeared in every episode of BBC’s ‘Ill Gotten Gains’ series as well as ITV’s ‘Police Camera Auction’ and works alongside local authorities, to put the money from the sale of seized assets, back into the public purse and eventually back into the local community.

Helping empower young people from disadvantaged communities to find the path to a brighter future is something that Aidan is extremely passionate about and is one of the reasons why he is really looking forward to working with the team at Sport Changes Life and our programmes.

Aidan spends his time between South Wales and Belfast and if he’s not cold-water swimming or spending time with his two sons Ethan & Ronan, he can be found hiking with his wife Rachel and handsome miniature schnauzer dog Ted!

Maebh Sherry

Sport Changes Life President & US Board Member

Maebh Sherry is Vice President at Goldman, Sachs & Co. since 1996. Maebh is originally from Monaghan and is sister to Co-Founder Professor Deirdre Brennan. She now lives in New Jersey with her children and husband as well as being a member of the Sport Changes Life board.

Maebh Sherry is part of the American board for Sport Changes Life and has therefore commited to an advisory role alongside other distinguished members. Members on the US board create an excellent point of entry for the Sport Changes Life Foundation. They enable Co-Founders of the Foundation to engage with Universities and elite athletes who have a keen interest in the Victory Scholar program and other work which Sport Changes Life engages in.

If you wish to contact Maebh regarding Sport Changes Life get in touch by emailing

Francis Powell

Sport Changes Life US Legal Advisor

Francis Powell is a partner of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP in Boston where his practice includes the representation of clients in a range of business disputes, construction and surety litigation, and defense of product liability and personal injury claims. He is also currently serving as a Special Assistant Attorney General to represent an agency of the Commonwealth in litigation arising from Boston’s “Big Dig.”

Mr. Powell counsels commercial and government clients, individuals and insurers regarding litigation strategy, contracting and risk management. He has been a member of the Sport Changes Life Board since 2010.

He is part of the American board for Sport Changes Life and has therefore commited to an advisory role alongside other distinguished members.

Darryl Shazier

Sport Changes Life US Secretary

A former graduate of the Victory Scholar program, Darryl attended Ulster University, where he earned a Masters degree in Business. Darryl was involved in many aspects of the program, including working with at-risk youth in the local community through the EHOOPS program, coaching a youth girls basketball team, and representing SCL and UUJ at the British University Games. Darryl played a key role in developing and promoting the game of basketball across Northern Ireland.

Currently an analyst at Goldman Sachs, Darryl has returned to the SCL US Board as Secretary to help streamline communication and efforts within and across the US and NI Board, working directly with the Chairman of the US Board.

Darryl can be contacted at

Matthew Graves

Sport Changes Life US Board Member Representative for Victory Scholars

Matthew is a graduate of the 2012-13 Victory Scholar program and returns to help the US Sport Changes Life board develop insights into additions to be made to our prestigious Victory Scholar Program.

As we are an ever expanding organizaion we are always wanting to better ourselves and Matthew is the right man for the job. Graduating from a masters in Business Studies at Ulster University, Jordanstown and with an impressive basketball resume at both Belmont Abbey University and the Ulster elks Matthew went onto become an assistant basketball coach at McDaniel College and most recently returned to coach at Belmont Abbey as an assitant coach. To contact Matthew please email

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