Belfast Telegraph

Windswept Rathlin has new football team

By Nevin Farrell

They're Northern Ireland's newest football team – and they'll play their home matches overseas.

Picked from a population of just 120, Rathlin Island FC are now searching for a suitable pitch.

Soccer has been reborn on the island for the first time in a generation. The small population had meant there wasn't the manpower to put out an 11-a-side team, but with the population growing slightly that has changed.

Team captain Ciaran McCurdy (26), a council worker, said the club had obtained Sport NI funding for goalposts, but getting a piece of suitable flat land on Rathlin has been a problem.

Posts have been erected on a farmer's field known locally as 'the Big Field', which recently had the silage cut and the cattle moved off it, but Ciaran fears it might not be big enough for official matches.

There is a slant on one side and it may not be wide enough, but that is not stopping Rathlin's band of footballing brothers from planning some friendlies.

Ciaran said: "We are bound to have a good advantage at home as some of the away teams might end up being sick on the ferry!"

The long-term aim is to join a league like one of the Coleraine junior leagues. But Ciaran accepted that the gales howling through Rathlin Sound could impact on those plans as ferry cancellations may hamper matches several times a season.

In the meantime they are in the process of getting a strip and sponsorship.

The previous Rathlin team – which turned out over 20 years ago – wore green, and Ciaran said the colours will be replicated for the reborn club to inspire the current crop of players on the island.

He added: "There are about 120 people living on the island and we felt the time was right to start a team.

"We have just about 11 players, but have had to bring in a couple of youngsters.

"At the moment we have been playing six or seven-a-side games among ourselves a few times a week for 90 minutes, and we play even in a gale – and you get a few of those on Rathlin.

"The 'Big Field' is our home at the moment, but who knows, in the future, maybe with help from a council, we could get an official full-sized pitch. Twenty or 30 years ago my father was involved with an 11-a-side team that went out of existence. They had a green kit and we want to go for those colours again, because that is the colour you see all around you on Rathlin.

"The old team did not play in a league but played friendlies with sides from Ballycastle and the like and we will try to get similar friendlies, if not against teams from the 'mainland', then against teams from other islands from around Ireland we have associations with."

Hopefully, the new team have a fair wind behind them.

Factfile

Team name: Rathlin Island FC

Formed: 2014

Nickname: The Islanders

Home ground: The Big Field

Goalkeeper: Connor McCurdy (18)

Defenders: Fergus McFaul (26), Ronan Blaney (18), Joe Hunter (early 30s), Ryan Cecil (10)

Midfielders: Rory McCurdy (21), Brian Taggart (early 30s), Ciaran McCurdy (26)

Forwards: Diarmuid Bonner (in 20s), Eoin McCurdy (15), Aidan Blaney (early teens)

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