Belfast Telegraph

Brendan Rodgers' former club targeted by arsonists

By Nevin Farrell

Arsonists have set fire to changing rooms at a football club where Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers learned to play the game.

The PSNI is probing the blaze, which caused damage to premises owned by Carnlough Swifts.

After playing for Carnlough, Rodgers went on to Ballymena United and then to England and eventually into management, ending up with one of the top jobs in world football.

But he has kept his close links with his home community and was back in Carnlough earlier this year.

He has also dropped into his old school, St Patrick's College in Ballymena.

In 2011, when he was manager of Swansea City, he paid for a new strip for Carnlough and ensured a cancer charity was mentioned on the back of the shirts, which also carried the name of the Bridge Inn on the front.

Emblazoned on the back was Marie Curie Cancer Care, a charity close to Rodgers' heart, as his dad Malachy and mum Christina both passed away from cancer.

A local source said: "Brendan Rodgers will be upset when he hears about this fire because he still very much keeps in touch with what is going on in his home village and, like Rory McIlroy said the other day, he is proud of where he comes from."

A PSNI spokesman said: "Police in Larne are appealing for information following an incident of criminal damage that occurred in the Stony Hill area of Carnlough on the evening of Friday 18 July.

"At approximately 11.40pm, it was reported to police that there was a small fire at a wooden shed in the area. The fire caused minor damage to the front of the shed and internal smoke damage."

Locals believe the fire was caused by "outsiders" to the village who were drinking and possibly glue-sniffing in Carnlough.

Police do not believe it was a hate crime, and that was also the view of Sinn Fein councillor James McKeown.

The local representative said Carnlough Swifts own the wooden structure and use it for changing rooms, and St John's camogie club also train there.

Mr McKeown said the Carnlough Swifts club is cross-community, even more so since the demise of a football team in nearby Glenarm.

Players from both villages now turn out for Carnlough.

He said the club had plans for a new permanent changing facility and 3G pitch.

On the arson attack, Mr McKeown said: "It is looking like pure vandalism and I don't believe it is sectarian.

"The club bought this structure about 15 years ago, it's a bit like a mobile classroom. Luckily somebody spotted the fire and the Fire Service came out and stopped it being gutted."

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