Northend United Youth FC sides reflect on busy first half of season

Nicky Armstrong receives second prize in the Northend United Christmas Raffle from Northend Chairperson Johnny Sayers.
Nicky Armstrong receives second prize in the Northend United Christmas Raffle from Northend Chairperson Johnny Sayers.

With each of the Northend United Youth teams enjoying a two week festive break, it’s an opportune time to reflect on the season so far.

The U7s, Northend’s youngest development team, have been busy enjoying their first steps in football under the direction of Northend’s Football Development Officer, John Devlin.

The Northend Babies have already completed a 12 week programme of skills development and are also planning for another 6 week programme in the New Year, before the start of competitive matches.

The U8s have had a great start to their season with two teams playing regularly in the Friday night IFA Small Sided Games Tournament at the Ballymena Showgrounds. Gordon Patterson’s youthful teams have been enjoying their football development, which sees them step up for the first season outside the Football Development Centre.

The U9s have four different teams playing regularly each week, three in the Saturday morning IFA Small Sided Games Tournament at the Showgrounds. The fourth team, Alex McDonald’s young guns have been enjoying their football development at Coleraine University each Saturday.

The U10s, under the Management of Ally McGarry, Jamie Pirie, David Hendron and Peter Kennedy, have had an outstanding season so far. Playing in the IFA Small Sided Games Tournament every Saturday, both U10 teams have been displaying a high level of commitment to their football development.

The U11s, under head coach Joe Kidd, have been this season’s surprise team, turning heads in their first season in the Daily Mirror Lisburn Invitational Youth League and only one step away from the last 16 in the prestigious NIBFA Cup with a rare home match against Hillsborough Colts in early January.

Following completion of the school AQE tests, the under-12s, under the direction of Robert Adams and Uel Magill, are looking forward to getting back to Lisburn League action after the winter break, with an NIBFA Cup match in the offing against Armagh City.

Brian Martin U12s Youth team have been a revelation in the North West and Coleraine District League this season, turning in some outstanding performances. The Manager knows that his strongest team is a match for any team at this level.

The U13s have had a solid start to the season in their new surroundings of the Lisburn League with Davy Wylie’s young team sitting in the top half of the table. The team have been strengthened with the return of Ciaran Campbell and a number of promising new recruits.

The U14s have been playing in the Lisburn Invitational Youth League for the second season and have gradually been improving as the season has progressed. This league is particularly strong in the younger age groups and U14s Manager’s Brian O’Hara and Johnny Day will look to turn their good performances into points with a number of recent displays not warranting the outcomes.

The U15 team have been steadily rebuilding from the beginning of the season and with a very inexperienced team, the results haven’t been going their way. Manager Brian McCluney and his coaching team of Stephen Fullerton and Mark Kyle will be looking to add one or two new players in the January transfer window.

The U16 team, now playing under the banner of Wakehurst have really been unlucky with a number of performances this season. Playing in a League mostly consisting of NIFL Championship Clubs, managers Tony Shaw and Johnny Sayers know that a goalscoring striker would add to their squad.

Finally, Stephen White’s U17 team, also playing under Wakehurst’s banner are currently sitting in a mid-table position in the Lisburn Youth League. A number of the team have also starred for Jason Connolly’s Wakehurst Strollers while skipper Bradley Cairns has also progressed to the Wakehurst first team.