THE future of the national squad has been the subject of great debate of late with pundits wondering where the next crop of stars are coming from.
But one local goalkeeper is doing his bit to try and make sure the development of the next Pat Jennings or Harry Gregg is in safe hands.
Irish Football Association PDP Goalkeeping Coach and Ards FC goalkeeper Michael Dougherty along with IFA Goalkeeping Director Alan Simpson, Portadown FC goalkeeper David Miskelly, Coleraine FC goalkeeper and goalkeeper coach Greg Shannon and NI Schoolboys goalkeeper coach Lee Rutherford have launched the NI Goalkeeping Academy & Personal Development Programme is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, offering Goalkeepers of all levels and all ages the opportunity to be coached and mentored on a regular basis.
They currently run three County Based Elite Centres - The Ballyoran Centre, Dundonald; The Football Warehouse, Portadown; The Coleraine Showgrounds.
And this summer they are on the lookout for Northern Ireland’s number one keeper.
“We want to help with the development of the province’s next batch of keepers so this summer we’re trying to find the number one young keeper,” Michael told Times Sport.
“We are running a series of camps with the top three keepers going to an Elite Camp at the start of September to battle it out for some fantastic prizes. These include the chance to train with the academies of top top clubs in England and Scotland, one-to-one coaching and sponsorship packages.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for these young players. The Academy’s main aims and goals are to concern itself solely with the development of each and every individual goalkeeper who steps through its doors.
“Whether it is developing a young club level keeper, counselling a perspective high school keeper or furthering a professional career each keeper will receive the very best and closest attention, specific to their individual needs and requirements.
“You have seen the list of names and will immediately realise that with that comes a wealth of experience in both coaching and playing.
“But we are not just trainers or coaches who work with a group or an individual from session to session.
“We are teachers, advisers, counsellors, mentors, representatives and coaches who plan for the long term, specific to each keeper. We are fully qualified, fully insured and fully focussed on helping all of our keepers become a roaring success.
“We want our keepers, their coaches and parents, to understand that football and the position of goalkeeper creates opportunity for growth, learning, character and opportunity, but it is not an end-all-be-all.
No matter how serious a keeper, their coach or their family is about the sport, it is not the sole guiding force for one’s life. It should involve hard work, but it should also be fun.
We care about our keepers. We care about their future and we care about their goals. Our concern for our keepers goes far beyond our own reputation. They will always come first.”
The NI GK Academy Summer Camp will run at Coleraine Showgrounds from August 5th to 9th.
To register log on to nigkacademy.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 07808542210.