Youth set to shine at NIBFA Finals Day
Glentoran will be hoping to add to Saturday's Irish Cup success at today's Northern Ireland Boys’ FA finals day.
On Saturday, former youth team players Calum Birney, William Garrett, Jordan Stewart, Steven Gordon and Kym Nelson all played a part in a historic day at The Oval, as the Glens beat Portadown 1-0. The east Belfast club will be hoping the Stewarts and Gordons of the future will help the club to further glory in the Under 15s and Under 14s category.
They're not the only Irish League club to be represented. Cliftonville, Crusaders, Linfield and Portadown are all involved in the NIBFA's gala event, which will kick off this morning (Monday) at the Mid Ulster Sports Arena in Cookstown, with the first final at 10.30am.
Arguably the day's main match is the Under 17 final between Crusaders and Linfield, which will kick off at 2pm. The Blues are tournament's current champions.
The Under 16s final at 4pm is a repeat of last year's final, as Cliftonville take on Linfield. It was the Reds who claimed the honours last season.
The little 'Big Two' will go head-to-head at 11.30am in the Under 15s. It's already been a great weekend for Glentoran, with the senior side winning the Irish Cup, so they would dearly love to add another cup to The Oval trophy cabinet by beating their old rivals Linfield. The Glens are the current holders of this particular trophy.
Glentoran are also in action at Under 14 level, where they will face Cliftonville in a 3.30pm kick off. The Reds won this age group last year.
No doubt a few of Portadown's Under 13 team were left heartbroken after the Irish Cup final on Saturday afternoon. They can put a positive spin on the Bank Holiday weekend when they face Lisburn Rangers in the 1pm.
The Ports are also in the Under 11s final, where they will take on Lurgan Town at midday. The Mid Ulster Arena is a fitting venue for this Mid Ulster derby. This is a 9-aside match.
The Under 12s final is the only game that doesn't have an Irish League club involved. The 9-a-side fixture sees Lurgan side Oxford Sunnyside take on south Down club Windmill Star.
There's also an 11-a-side Under 12s final, where Linfield will play Coleraine outfit Bertie Peacock Youth. As both teams have players in the Club NI squad that are currently in Qatar this final has been moved to Friday night at Mill Meadow in Castledawson, with kick-off set for 7.15pm.
484 teams across the age groups set out for glory at the start of the season, while NIBFA also posted record membership in the 2014/15 season. Hopefully today's show-piece event is the start of something special for Northern Ireland's most talented young footballers.