Paddy McNair’s debut for Manchester United at the weekend was greeted with extra interest by one Ballymena youth football club.
The Northern Ireland under-21 international made his debut for the Red Devils in their 2-1 win over West Ham United at Old Trafford.
Seven years ago, the Ballyclare-based teenager played for Carniny Youth in the Foyle Cup tournament in the north west.
He played a starring role as the under-12 Carniny side coached by Lindsay Curry, Stephen Armstrong and Tom Todd reached the last four of the main competition before losing to Hearts.
“Even at that stage you could tell he was going to go far - scouts from different cross-channel clubs were queueing up to watch him that week,” Carniny Youth secretary Billy O’Flaherty told Times Sport.
“He had been playing for Ballyclare Colts and some other sides and we managed to get him to play for us at the Foyle Cup that week.
“We had a good team at that time, with Rodney Brown, who’s now at Linfield and a number of players currently on Ballymena United’s books but we were still relatively new as a club and Paddy’s exploits that week helped raise the club’s profile.
“It was all over our players’ social media on Friday when it was being suggested that he would play on Saturday - after all, it’s not every day a group of Ballymena boys can say they played in the same team as a future Manchester United player!” added Billy.