Causeway Chronicle

‘Providing opportunities for progression is what we are all about’

A mid-season review by Senior Academy Manager, Gary Devenney.

Coleraine FC’s Senior Academy has proudly seen the successful integration of Senan Devine, Alife Gaston, Ciaran O’Hara and Cathair Donnelly into the first team environment during the current season.

Since the commencement of the season, these four promising players have consistently earned their spots on the match-day team sheets, catching the eye of first-team staff with stellar performances for the Under-20s. Most notably, Ciaran O’Hara’s recent appearances have left a lasting impact, with the young talent securing two goals in his first two starts for the Bannsiders.

Since preseason began in the middle of July this year, our dedicated coaching staff have delivered over 150 coaching sessions, accumulated over 200 hours of training and managed over 50 competitive fixtures across all three squads which has pushed our contact hours to over 250. The seamless collaboration behind the scenes to organize sessions and oversee match days reflects our commitment to providing ample opportunities for player progression.

Looking at the start of the season, Senan made his first-team debut away to Crusaders, and Ciaran’s recent breakthrough underscores the attainability of progression opportunities. Aidan Tejada in our U20s, Alife Gaston, and Cathair Donnelly are additional success stories, each showcasing promising developments in their respective journeys. Matthew Burns and Sam McClintock from our U18s further emphasize the depth of talent within our ranks, with Sam recently promoted to the U20s. Matthew Burns has been impressing lately with Northen Ireland U16s having recently won the JD Academy player of month award and U18s player of the month award in October.

It would be remis of me to not also bring attention to the fact that we had 11 players from our Senior Academy win the Premier division of the Super Cup with Co. Londonderry in July, a squad that was led by U20s lead coach Marty Smith and assistant coach Brian Devine. Coleraine FC players represented: Harry Pearson, Jacob Dallas, Chirstian Gallagher, Joshua Clifford, Ben Hutton, Alfie Gaston, Matthew Burns, Senan Devine, Bobby Baird, Caoimhin Ramsey & Sam McClintock & Aidan Tejada.

We have had numerous international representations with Cole Vary, Aidan Tejada, Alfie Gaston, Senan Devine, Matthew Burns & Alfie Friars all part of Northern Ireland international squads or training camps. Most recently, there have been call ups to the Northern Ireland Schoolboy Under 18 squad for Mikey Harkin, Sam McClintock, Alfie Gaston & Senan Devine.

I feel that it’s also important that we highlight the additional sporting achievements of some of our players. As much as we have a focus on developing the footballing ability of our players, we must also recognise their passions and pursuits away from the football pitch. U18 player AJ Beech travelled to Austria as part of the Causeway Barbarians Rugby Select Squad to compete in the United World games. Charlie Simpson, Sam McClintock and Alfie Gaston making senior Cricketing appearances for Newbuildings and Coleraine Cricket clubs, respectively. In Gaelic, Taidgh Coyle, Finlay Doherty, Christian Gallagher, Dara Hughes & Conor Love competed at club and county level.

The Development of a young player is a multifaceted process, with numerous coaches, individuals and organisations involved, none so more important than their academic attainments. Whether a player signs a professional contract, attains a scholarship for further education and sporting development or leaves Coleraine FC to play elsewhere in NI, we must also celebrate those moments. From an educational perspective, U20s player Luke Kelly has committed to a Scholarship in America starting in September 2024 with fellow U20s defender, Kyle McCloskey also in the process of confirming his scholarship placement. Following on, U18s Goalkeeper, Harry Pearson is also on the path of creating a scholarship route having been accepted by Scholarship agency SSUSA. In July, current U16 player Daniel Curran headed off to Boston, USA, as part of a scholarship showcase event.

We currently have 6 senior academy players who make up part of the Full Time Education and Coaching Academy, studying a BTEC in Sport at the club: Harry Pearson, Luke Kelly, Jamie Smith, Ben Hutton, AJ Beech & Ryan Sheppard.

While we celebrate our achievements so far, we understand the importance of setting and maintaining high standards. Each player develops at their own pace, and it is crucial to allow sufficient time for that growth. Coleraine FC’s Senior Academy is committed to continuing the hard work to provide an optimal environment for player development, ensuring the sustained success of our talented prospects.

2024 promises to be another year of excellence for our talented and committed cohort of players.

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Maurice Bradley