The 2003 and 2004 Ballymena United Youth Academy teams competed in last week’s Foyle Cup and enjoyed a successful week.
Both teams performed very well and claimed top ten finishes overall but the development experience for the two groups of players was the real positive.
Both teams saw themselves drawn in tough groups before the start of the tournament but set off on Monday morning determined to show their skills among the 310 other teams taking part in the biggest youth tournament for clubs in Northern Ireland.
Facing last year’s Foyle Cup champions, Donegal Schoolboys, in the opening game proved a tough test for the 2003 Sky Blues and despite a strong performance the boys lost 3-2.
The early defeat spurred the group on and they recorded comfortable wins against Foyle Harps (5-2) and St Mary’s (2-0) to finish second in their group and progress to the semi-final of the Foyle Cup Rosebowl competition.
In the semi-finals they came up against Coleraine side Bertie Peacocks and despite going behind showed great determination and attitude to comeback and win 2-1 to give themselves a place in the final where they would face Roe Valley.
The boys put on a fantastic dominant display which gave them a 2-0 win and saw them crowned Rosebowl champions and finish 9th place out of the 24 teams in the Under 13 age group.
Squad: Conor Friel, Bradley McCartney, Blake Douglas, Jordan McMullan, Taylor Adger, Sean McAllister, Ross McCausland, Lewis Nevin, Luke McConnell, Seanie McIntosh, Cameron Stewart, Scott McCullough, Kyle Neill, Tim Bailie, Shaun O’Callaghan, Daniel Barfoot, Matthew Worthington, Oisin O’Mullan, Rory McBriar.
Goalscorers: Luke McConnell (5), Sean McAllister (3), Lewis Nevin (2), Tim Bailie (1), Blake Douglas (1), Bradley McCartney (1)
As with the 2003s the boys lost the opening game 2-1 against South Donegal despite an excellent performance. The boys were spurred on by the opening game and went on to record excellent wins against Coleraine (4-1) and Sion Swifts (2-1) to finish top of their group and progress to the quarter finals.
First up in the quarter finals were local favourites and Derry City’s Academy team Derry Colts. Despite having played 3 games in as many days the skill and energy levels displayed by the squad were exceptional and the Wee Sky Blues clinched a deserved 2-1 victory to see them through to the semi-final.
In the semis against Donegal Schoolboys the efforts of the previous 4 days took their toll as the Donegal side ran out 6-0 winners. Ballymena picked themselves up and travelled back the following day to play Ballinamallard in the playoff for 3rd and 4th places. The Fermanagh boys proved too strong and clinched 3rd place overall with a 4-0 win leaving the Ballymena players slightly disappointed but parents and coaches all extremely proud with 4th place out of the 32 teams entered.
Squad: Ryan McGrath, Caleb Stewart, Adam Watterson, Scott Montgomery, Timothy McClure, Mark Lowry, Jonny Douglas, Billy Ewart, Adam Millar, Joshua Balmer, Lewis Tennant, Diego Fletcher, Mark Norris, Justin Hill, Harry Foster, Sean Byrne, Jay Montgomery.
Goal Scorers: Joshua Balmer (3), Harry Foster (2), Diego Fletcher (1), Timothy McClure (1), Lewis Tennant (1), Mark Norris (1)
The Academy would like to thank the parents for their support throughout the week, the coaches for their time and dedication in getting the teams prepared both before and during the tournament, the sponsors and in particular Tullyglass House Hotel, Chain Reaction and Francey Coach Hire, Tommy Philips for recording the 2004 matches throughout the week and most importantly the players for their dedication and effort throughout the week itself and each training session in the lead up to the tournament.