Belfast Telegraph

Is Glenavon's Bobby Burns the leading light of the Irish League's newest class?

By Billy Weir

It was fitting that Glenavon went to the top of the class in the week that students around the country were looking for a different set of results.

But for one shooting star it was to be a double celebration with a goal to remember and the small matter of three As in his AS Levels to boot.

Bobby Burns scored the fabulous fifth of Glenavon's sensational six-goal annihilation of Ballymena United at The Showgrounds on Saturday to send Glenavon top of the table on goal difference.

The St Malachy's Head Boy is tipped to go far in the game and his versatility on the pitch will have manager Gary Hamilton beaming from ear to ear.

The former Northern Ireland Under-18 captain has played left-back, midfield and on Saturday turned up in a little and large striking act with Andrew Mitchell and capped off a memorable day and week with a stunning strike that ripped into the rigging.

Burns is just one of an impressive array of young talent at Hamilton's disposal, mixed with some experienced heads such as Sammy Clingan, who was exceptional pulling the strings in the middle of the park, keeper Jonny Tuffey who pulled off two great saves to keep the scoreline blank at the break, and Andy Hall who bagged a wonderful free-kick to cap off a fine display.

Adam Foley opened the floodgates in the 48th minute before three goals in a madcap five-minute spell midway through the half from James Singleton, Clingan from the penalty spot and Hall's set-piece stunner rocked Ballymena.

They hit back with a Tony Kane penalty but were back on the floor again moments later after Burns' stunner and in injury-time Mitchell bundled the ball home to make it six and with six different players on the scoresheet.

Coach Kris Lindsay was purring after the game and hopes that the young guns and older hands can combine to keep Glenavon flying high.

"I think we moved something ridiculous like 10 players on over the summer and not qualifying for Europe last year was a big blow financially for the club," he explained.

"We couldn't afford to keep all those players and since Gary (Hamilton) arrived he hasn't been afraid to give young players a chance.

"The likes of Mark Sykes, Rhys Marshall, James Singleton who have all come through and we have another exciting crop of young players coming through. Bobby Burns has been outstanding in his last three games.

"He played centre midfield in the first two and was probably up there for man of the match and here he moved further forward and played up front with Mitch and he was outstanding and scored an absolute bullet.

"He's had a fabulous week, he got his AS results on Thursday and got three As and then scored for the first team on Saturday so he's delighted.

"You've got the likes of him who is going to have to step up to the plate this year, you've got Conall Young who came off the bench, Robbie Norton who's there and Sykesy is still young.

"Caolan Marron is a young lad and if you look at the crop of young players, if you maybe take Jonny Tuffey, Simon Kelly and Sammy Clingan out of it, the vast majority of our players are 23 and under, with bundles of energy and bundles of enthusiasm and that's what we need this year to go forward."

As for Ballymena, where do you start? Steady if unspectacular in the first half, they were simply abysmal and it's tempting to say they should be made to stand in the corner of the room with a hat emblazoned with a 'D'.

That 'D' certainly didn't stand for defending, they conceded six and it could have been even more, some of Ross Glendinning's good saves overshadowed by the shell-shocked keeper's second period to forget.

But there is no defence for the defence either, the midfield was missing in action and teenage striker Matthew Shevlin found that Tuffey remains one of the hardest men to get a ball past in local football.

David Jeffrey has been here before, an opening day 6-0 walloping by Crusaders belying what was to become an incredible season of success for the Sky Blues, and while that is now in the history books he will be praying that history does repeat itself.

"We are masters of our own downfall. We give the ball away and we're cut right open. To say they were schoolboy errors is being harsh on schoolboys.

"It's three games into the season so we're not going to go overboard and get things out of proportion, we have to keep it in perspective but I am hoping this will do for us what our opening 6-0 defeat by Crusaders did for us last year.

"I think the reality is that people have now got to stop living on the spoils and the glories of last year because all those things are condemned to the history books."

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