In the past week three local teams from the wider Coleraine area have produced an outstanding performance in Umea Festival of Soccer in North Eastern Sweden.
Under the direction of Millburn Primary School’s year 6 Teacher, Ruairi McClean, a number of coaches were selected and recruited to fully prepare the three teams, the first from Northern Ireland, for this highly competitive festival.
Among his main recruits was recent Coleraine manager David Platt, now with Limavady United. Ruairi, himself an ex-Institute and Ballymena United player, directed the preparation and on July 25th the 35 boys and nine adults set off via London and Stockholm for the final flight to Umea.
The under 10 team, coached by Conor Lynch, had 21 teams in their section, the under 11’s, coached by Mark Crawford, had 30 teams to compete against and the under 13’s had 28 to overcome.
Past winners of this prestigious competition feature none other than the present European Champions, Barcelona and teams come from all over Europe and further afield.
The group section produced some very exciting football with all three local teams topping their sections.
The under ten team in particular produced outstanding performances and truly exciting football. The knock out stage was nail biting with each team playing twice each day.
In their quarter final the under 13 team played a Nordic team which had gone a full season un-beaten. Down 2-0 at half time they produced an incredible second half performance to draw 2-2 and they then went on to qualify after a penalty shoot out.
All of the teams reached their respective finals and on Sunday past played teams from Estonia, Norway and Sweden respectively in front of a large crowd of passionate supporters many from Northern Ireland.
As expected the under 10 team again produced a champions performance winning their final 5-1 and being hailed by the Slovakian coach, beaten in an earlier round, as the best under ten team he had ever played against.
Next came the under 11 final and unfortunately they were immediately under pressure going in at half time 1-0 down.
With less than 10 minutes left the score remained the same but in a thrilling last six minutes the under 11’s scored twice without reply to beat the Norwegians and be crowned champions.
The under 13 team played next and what a thriller of a game it turned out to be.
They dominated from the start and hit the wood work four times in the first half before going into the break at 0-0.
A tense second half followed and with the game edging towards extra time, coaches David Platt and Anthony Gilmore, made a number of last ditch changes which produced a winning goal and a tense last five minutes.
An incredible performance from our North Coast lads produced three champions in this prestigious competition and our congratulations go out to all involved.
Ruairi would like to say a special thanks to Andrew Law, Janice Dysart and Kerri Chapman for all their hard work on the trip.
And an extra special thanks to the following local businesses who helped make it possible: McDonald’s, Bonds Jewellers, Bann Building, McKendry Fabrications, Charco, The Harbour Chip Shop, Roadside Garages, Lodge Hotel, Homeseal, Coleraine Social Club, Ivan Murdock and Sons. Haldane Fisher, Telstar, McNulty’s, Railway Arms, Belfry and Craig Dallas ElectricS, Yoko, Carolyn Mullan, No.4 Hairdressers, High Society, Lynn Weir, DV8, Andrew Brown, Pets 4 Home, Alley Cats and La Maison.
Thanks also to Marie Dunne for her collections of gifts/prizes from the Bushmills area, and Brenda Kane for a fundraising event in The Icehouse, Portstewart.