Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland stars to get coaching exposure at a younger age

By Keith Bailie

The Irish Football Association and Elite Performance Director Jim Magilton have launched their Club NI scheme, which aims to bring the best young players in Northern Ireland together at a young age.

Magilton has recruited Northern Ireland's record goalscorer David Healy to help coach the next generation of internationals, as well as Stephen Craigan, Stephen Robinson, Pascqual Vaudequin and Declan Devine.

Club NI aim is to increase contact time between players and coaches. The best young players in the country will train three times a week with the Irish FA's coaches, as the association tries to develop players for the future.

Jim Magilton explained: “We've discussed it with a lot of people both here and in England, and we decided the most important thing we can do is increase contact time between young players and coaches. Our players need to spend more time with quality coaches.

“In consolation with our manager Michael O'Neill we've brought in a number of coaches who we believe can help us develop our best young players.

“Stephen Robinson will coach our Under 16s and Under 17s, which includes our Schoolboy international team. He will be working alongside David Healy, he needs no introduction. Also coming in are former Derry City manager Declan Devine and former Institute boss Pasqual Vaudequin.

“We've set up two regional centres, for players at under 14, as we recognise the difficulties with travelling for parents. We've one centre in Cookstown, at the Mid-Ulster Sports Arena and another at The Dub in south Belfast. Both have fantastic facilities.

“They train regionally twice a week, and then we bring them together in Cookstown on a Sunday. It's pretty radical and it's very different, but we felt something had to be done.

“We feel we need to expose our players to the sort of contact time they would get at a professional club in England.”

Club NI coach David Healy will be working with players between the age of 16 and 18.

The former Manchester United trainee said: “It's been well documented that we haven't been producing enough young players in recent years, so we're hoping the Club NI scheme will help our players develop. It's all about getting more contact time with the young lads and helping them to progress, so if they do go across the water, they're not years behind the other lads.”

Declin Devine, former Glentoran and Derry City goalkeeper, will work with players in the west of Northern Ireland.

Devine said: “Jim has assembled a very good team of coaches that I believe can enhance the quality of footballers here. I've no doubt the talent is here, but we've got to nurture it and develop it. It's exciting times for the Irish FA.”

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