Three Ballymena cricketers will have a head-start in terms of match practice when the local cricket season begins.
James McClean, John Glass and Johnny Browne have been selected for the NCU Under 15 Development Squad which began a six game tour of South Africa on Saturday.
All three play cricket for Ballymena Academy and for Ballymena Cricket Club.
Their selection for this squad is just reward for their on-field performances and hard work at practice nets. It is also a huge boost for the coaches at both the school and the club that three local players have been selected for such a prestigious tour.
James McClean, who will captain the NCU team, is a wicket-keeper/batsman who has already impressed at NCU Premier League level, having played several games for Ballymena 1st XI last summer.
John Glass is predominately a batsman who also bowls leg-spin; both he and McClean have also recently been named in the Ireland Under 15 squad.
Johnny Browne is an opening bowler whose progress in recent months has earned him deserved recognition.
There is no doubt that these talented young players will benefit from this opportunity to play against top-class opposition in conditions totally different from the grounds at home. Hopefully for all three it will prove a stepping-stone to further representative honours.
The progress of these young players is hugely significant for the Ballymena club, who are in the process of rebuilding an ageing First XI.
The club is particularly strong in the 15–16 age bracket; as well as the three players selected for South Africa, other talented youngsters such as Sam Glass and Owen Dick clearly have the ability and enthusiasm needed to develop into Premier League cricketers.