Glentoran bridged a 96-year gap last week when European glory was brought back to east Belfast — and it was the Cock ‘n’ Hens’ kids who made it happen.
Back in 1914 the Glens travelled to Austria to take part in the Vienna Cup, a forerunner to today’s European competitions, and amazingly returned to these shores with the trophy.
Fast forward to 2010 and it was Glentoran’s under-10 side who were causing a stir on the continent as they came back from Paris with the International Cup.
The tournament consisted of teams from England, Scotland and France, with the Glens representing Northern Ireland.
The Glens’ under-10 squad was split into two seven-a-side teams and entered both the under-10 and under-11 competitions.
Despite performing heroically against older and physically stronger opponents on the opening day, alas narrow defeats to Ise Lodge from England, and French sides FC Lognes and US Torcy the under-11 trophy was out of their reach, though they would remain in the shield competition.
That meant that all the emphasis was placed on day two when the east Belfast kids would go up against players their own age — and boy did they rise to the task.
A stunning 9-2 victory over Edinburgh side Easthouses Boys Club gave the Glens kids the belief that they could be heading home with the cup and that was followed up by a thrilling 4-2 win over French team Noisiel.
On the final day a 5-1 victory over another French side set up a decider with Scottish opponents, meaning the boys were one win away from writing their young names in the annuls of Glentoran history.
In a tense encounter the Scots missed a penalty early on before Nicholas Trueick grabbed the winning goal to spark scenes of unbridled joy among the the boys in red, green and black.
Both Glentoran sides had reached the finals and were declared as joint winners — champions of the International Under-10s Cup.
Jamie Craig was Player of the Tournament in Section A and Adam Bickerstaff took the honours in Section A, while Ryan Tweedie finished as the tournament’s top goalscorer with nine.
Indeed such was the team’s success at the event that they ended up playing against each other in a 3rd-4th place play-off for the under 11 shield.
And a European triumph wasn’t the only thing these youngsters had in common with the 1915 Vienna Cup winning team.
For, due to the travel chaos following the Icelandic volcano eruption, the boys had to travel home by boat — for some part at least.
A 29-hour return saw them take a coach from Paris to Calais, the Eurostar to Folkstowne before embarking on a coach journey to Edinburgh to drop Easthouses off and then on to the Stranraer to take the ferry back to Belfast.
“Apart from the players who to a boy were outstanding in every way possible, a big thank you has to go to the parents in helping to raise funds for the event,” said coach David Lowry.
“A massive thank you to the Glentoran fans for taking an interest and helping with bucket collections and to the Northern Bank for their kind Donation.
“However the last word of thanks must go to Beverly Brown of James Brown & Sons Funeral Directors. If it wasn’t for her very generous intervention the trip would not have been possible.”
Glentoran under-10s squad: Zak Clark, Brandon McNirlan, Jake Allely, Jack Shaw, Ethan Warnock, Danny Massey, Jamie Craig, Gregg Parker, Adam Bickerstaff, David Briley, Jack Briley, Kyle Jones, Kyle Lemon, Ryan Tweedie, Josh Tipping, Nicholas Trueick, John Ewing.