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Football: Dunmurry kids on a high

By Stuart McKinley

Being coached by a player from your favourite team is the dream of every young schoolboy hopeful of making it as a professional footballer.

That is exactly what the pupils of Dunmurry High School get - and on a weekly basis too.

Linfield goalkeeper Alan Mannus coaches the young stoppers at the school in Seymour Hill and with a large number of those pupils following the Blues they are in their element learning from the Windsor Park number one.

"A couple of years ago I spoke to the Irish FA about the possibility of a specialist goalkeeping coach coming along to work with the young goalkeepers at the school," said PE teacher and football coach Mark Watson.

"From there I was put in touch with Alan and he has been working at the school every week for an hour or so which allows myself, another teacher and another coach to look after the outfield players.

"We have about 40 to 50 of the pupils taking part and they love working with Alan and having him around.

"The fact that he plays for Linfield makes Alan popular at the school and with him being in the Northern Ireland squad now and understudy to Maik Taylor obviously gives our coaching sessions a bit higher a profile.

"Rain, hail or shine the boys are out on the pitch after school every Wednesday wanting to learn from Alan and I have seen a great improvement in our goalkeepers since he started the coaching sessions."

Mannus isn't the most famous footballing name that the Dunmurry High children have got up close to though.

The school undertakes an annual football trip to Wigan, where through a partnership with another school they play matches before heading off to a Premier League game at Wigan Athletic's JJB Stadium.

"Last year we went to see Wigan against West Ham and after the match we got to meet some of the West Ham players," said Mr Watson.

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