Four Dungannon Swifts teenagers agree moves to top English teams
Dungannon Swifts legend Dixie Robinson has outlined the club's immense pride that FOUR of their young players have signed for English teams.
Conor Bradley (15) is off to Liverpool, Sean McAllister (16) from Randalstown has joined Everton, Magherafelt's Aaron Donnelly (16) is moving to Nottingham Forest and Vicky Saldanha (16), originally from East Timore, is going to Birmingham City.
Bradley, who hails from Aghyaran near Castlederg, has agreed a two-year deal with the European Champions, while the others are on three-year contracts - one-year YTS and two-year professional.
The quartet will travel across the water this week to start their new careers with Dungannon Swifts' Head of Development Robinson insisting that the fab four have the talent to enjoy bright futures in the game.
All of them have played at under-20s level for the Swifts and were involved in Northern Ireland's successful Victory Shield side alongside another gifted young Dungannon player, 15-year-old Terry Devlin.
"We are immensely proud that the four boys have joined top English sides," says Robinson, who has been at the club for 36 years as a player, coach, manager and in his present role.
"It shows the work we are putting in at Dungannon United Youth and Dungannon Swifts. We have always been to the forefront of youth development and we aim for that to continue.
"Ciaran O'Kane, who managed this group of boys with Dungannon United Youth, did a fantastic job and Joe McAree, the chairman of Dungannon United Youth, deserves great praise for bringing the boys on board.
"It was a phenomenal achievement for a club like Dungannon Swifts to have five players in the Northern Ireland Victory Shield winning team and for four of them to be going to England is amazing. Our other member of that squad, Terry Devlin, is rated very highly and could be the next one to get an opportunity."
Robinson offers a fascinating insight into the four youngsters on the move.
"Conor Bradley has been with us for two seasons and is a very talented boy," he states.
"Liverpool have been taking Conor back and forth since he was 12 and made it clear that they were keen on him. He is a wide right player and truly is a fantastic footballer.
"Sean McAllister is a right back for Northern Ireland, though we see him as a striker, and he has been phenomenal in the three seasons he's been with us. He is a great athlete who works tremendously hard. Celtic were also after him but he opted to join Everton.
"Aaron Donnelly is a central defender who has been with us since he was 12. He had opportunities to go elsewhere as well but he loved Nottingham Forest, their Academy and the people over there. Aaron has a wand of a left foot capable of scoring goals from long distance.
"Vicky Saldanha is from East Timore and is now living in Dungannon. He's a left sided player and is off to Birmingham. Vicky started off in our community programme and has been a revelation. Football is his life. He is strong, very quick and has great potential."