FOOTBALL: Comrades sign up for U20 league

Ballyclare Comrades chairman Trevor McCann
Ballyclare Comrades chairman Trevor McCann

The new Northern Ireland Under-20 Development League is a definite starter, and Ballyclare Reserves will be a part of it, according to the club’s chairman.

“Discussions have been ongoing for some time regarding this new league for young players,” said Comrades’ chairman Trevor McCann, “ but I can now confirm that it is a done deal, and I am delighted that we will be participating.

“Agreement has been reached in principle and all that remains is to sort out the details, but 17 clubs have signed up and now it is a matter of organisation.

“Some favour a straightforward league of 17 teams, but it is more than likely that we will end up with a nine-eight split, possibly on a regional basis. In recent years our Reserves have done well in the Ballymena Junior League.

“We have an excellent youth set-up at Dixon Park with the likes of Michael Smith and Joel Cooper coming through to get international recognition, but these young lads are often competing against much more experienced and physically tougher players, so we are greatly in favour of this Under 20 League,” he enthused.

Assistant-manager Eddie Hill also weighed in with his support. “It is a big ask to expect players to make the step up from a Ballymena Junior League to Championship level,” he asserted.

“Hopefully in this new league all teams will be wanting to play a passing game, with the ball on the ground most of the time, and this will suit our philosophy well,” he added.

The Comrades continue to be active in the transfer market with two former players returning to Dixon Park. Simon McGowan and Adam Gray are back following spells with PSNI and Moyola Park respectively, and their arrival will increase competition for places in the engine room.

“Adam and Simon both know Dixon Park inside out, and I know that they are proud to wear our colours, and that is the type of player I want,” boss Stephen Hughes said.