Belfast Telegraph

Super Cup NI: A look at County Down as Ards defender McAleenan looks to build on Irish league experience

 

By Keith Bailie

Co Down's Super Cup NI set-up has a fine tradition of producing talented Irish League players, and the coaches at the county set-up are confident this year's crop can follow in the footsteps of the likes of Andrew Waterworth, Jamie Mulgrew and Steven Gordon.

In fact, this year's Premier (under 17) squad already contains a player who has made his NIFL Premiership debut.

Ards defender Adam McAleenan made his first team debut in a 3-2 win over Ballinamallard at Ferney Park in April. Adam was drafted into the team after a car carrying some first team players broke down en route to Fermanagh.

The 17-year-old, who played for Down Juniors (under 15) last year, said: "Getting into the Ards first team was a great confidence boost, although to be honest, I didn't really have a lot of time to think about it.

"The call up was a last-minute thing which probably worked to my advantage.

"I was able to just enjoy it. Everyone in the first team camp has been nothing but helpful. I knew first team coaches Davy Bryson and John Bailie, as they are also coaches for Down, which made life a lot easier."

Co Down's Junior manager Bryson believes the SuperCupNI is a fantastic footballing education for young local players.

"For a week, the boys are treated like professional footballers. It gives them some insight into what it would be like to play the game professionally," he said.

"They are viewed as the best players in the county, and they are given a level of respect and trust. They will not have experienced anything like this before. The excitement that goes with this tournament is on another level.

"It's fantastic to have one of the most prestigious youth tournaments in Europe right on our doorstep.

"The boys learn so much from this tournament. It whets their appetite for football and helps them to understand what is required of a professional footballer."

Down Juniors kick off their campaign on Monday, July 24 with a fixture against Cherry Orchard in Portrush (1.30pm), before playing Antrim at Ballymena Showgrounds (5.00pm) on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Down face Chilean side Collina at Castlerock (3.00pm).

Down's Premier side start their campaign against American side Premier Soccer at Portrush (5.00pm). On Tuesday they play French side Vendee at the Warren in Portstewart (4.30pm) before facing Fermanagh in Clough on Wednesday (7.00pm).

DOWN JUNIOR SQUAD: Marc Matthews, Dylan Boyle, Cian Gantley, Callum McVeigh, Jacob Collins, Kris Cowan, Bailey Locke, Aidan Steele, Aaron Brown, Ross Hunter, Eoin Teggart, Ben McMorris, Benji Magee, John McGivern, Naseem Ouldhamlat, George Tipton, Ben Hollinger, Ryan Dalzell

DOWN PREMIER SQUAD: Scott Pengelly, Mal Smith, Jamie Glover, Adam McAleenan, James McCarthy, Jack Henderson, Tom Mathieson, Matthew Lee, Callum Ferris, Adam Carroll, Dean Truesdale, Ruari O’Hare, Daniel Smith, Cai Gemmell, Ross Weatherup, Joseph Shevlin, Jack Conlon, Matty Anderson

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