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Banner tribute as Cookstown football hero Stuart Dallas hits the big time with Leeds United

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The ‘good luck’ banner in Cookstown for Stuart Dallas

The ‘good luck’ banner in Cookstown for Stuart Dallas

Tribute: Northern Ireland star Stuart Dallas who will be playing in the Premier League with Leeds

Tribute: Northern Ireland star Stuart Dallas who will be playing in the Premier League with Leeds

The ‘good luck’ banner in Cookstown for Stuart Dallas

Cookstown has always been a town that enjoys celebrating its favourite sporting sons.

And now the Co Tyrone town is making it a real banner occasion for another as local footballing hero Stuart Dallas is ready to step into the Premier League with Leeds United.

To celebrate, with the 29-year-old Northern Ireland international likely to make his Premier League debut against champions Liverpool at Anfield this evening, the Monrush estate in the town has gone all out to make sure their boy's achievement doesn't go without notice.

A banner has been erected in the estate to let their hero know all of Cookstown will be supporting him on his big day.

The banner, in the Leeds United colours of white, yellow and blue, appeared on Thursday night reading "Best wishes Stuart. From the streets of Monrush...to the Premier League."

It also includes the hashtags #OurCookstownCafu, his nickname on the streets after the Brazilian legend of the 1990s, and #Proud.

Dallas has been a key figure in Leeds United's rise to the big time in English football and, for the first time since the days of another footballing icon produced by the town - former Northern Ireland captain Aaron Hughes - the town will be cheering on a local throughout the league season.

And Dallas will need all his international experience as his club, managed by maverick Argentinian coach Marcelo Bielsa, make their Premier Leaguebow at Anfield, taking on Liverpool on the opening day of the new season (5.30pm kick-off).

Northern Ireland international Dallas has enjoyed a meteoric rise since his days at local amateur side Coagh United.

After a fine 2009-10 season for Coagh United, Dallas signed for Crusaders in the summer of 2010, where he won the Setanta Cup and League Cup and was also named Player and Young Player of the Year in 2011.

He was named Leeds United's Players' Player of the Year last season as the team sealed their return to the English top flight following a 16-year absence.

Looking ahead to Saturday's game, Dallas said earlier this week: "As a young boy I dreamt of playing in the Premier League and hopefully this weekend I get that opportunity.

"To play against the team I grew up supporting as well will be extra special - but I'm a Leeds fan now."

Dallas attended Cookstown Primary School and Cookstown High School, winning the Uunder-14 and Under-15 Coleraine and District League titles with the high school in 2004 and 2005.

It's not the first time the residents of Cookstown have shown their support for their home grown talent.

In July last year Aaron Hughes, who played for Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Fulham in the Premier League, Dallas and Raymond McCoy - also capped by Northern Ireland - were honoured for the distinction they've brought the town with a mural erected in the Millburn Park area of the town by Cookstown North Community with support from Sperrin Cultural Awareness.

Belfast Telegraph