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It's time to improve Northern Ireland's racing tracks to help the next Jonathan Rea or Glenn Irwin

Liam Beckett


On track: Glenn Irwin

On track: Glenn Irwin

On track: Glenn Irwin

What a truly superb time this is for motorsport in Northern Ireland, last weekend in particular - for us petrol heads, it doesn't get much better.

In Portugal, our current world champion and Kawasaki-mounted Jonathan Rea showed exactly why he is the undisputed No.1 in World Superbike racing by winning three races while, at Donington Park in England, the Irwin brothers Andrew and Glenn were totally dominant at the front of the British Superbike series, with both grabbing all the glory and headlines aboard the all-new Honda Fireblade machines.

Then, on four wheels, British Touring Car champion Colin Turkington won at Brands Hatch, with Wayne Boyd doing likewise in the European Le Mans at Spa.

A truly fantastic accumulation of results across the various disciplines for our home-grown speed merchants.

However, while we all wallow in the tremendous worldwide acclamation and subsequent pride our talented sportspeople continue to bring us, has anyone ever asked what our country has in terms of suitable facilities to offer these stars a proper opportunity to hone and perfect their unique skills?

Surely once the Covid-19 pandemic stops dominating every waking thought, and the Northern Ireland Executive gets its house in order with regard to health and education as their main priorities, they must seriously consider providing the necessary funding to completely modernise and update our existing short circuits - or construct a brand new purpose-built race track to provide a platform for our talented kids to serve a proper apprenticeship and give them a realistic chance of emulating the speed stars we have today.

It is unforgivable to expect talented but raw young sportspeople to plough a lone furrow, basically having to scrape, fight and make do with all that we've got for a chance to exhibit their skills on the big stage further afield.

So for goodness sake, let's give our kids in Northern Ireland a decent platform and as fair and equal a chance as the rest - or is that just too much to ask?

We can rely on the kings of Galgorm Castle

I am absolutely delighted for my local golf club, Galgorm Castle, with the brilliant news that not only is it to stage the traditional Northern Ireland Open in early September but it has also been chosen to host next month's hugely prestigious Irish Open, which is sure to feature a host of top stars.

It's still pretty much a guessing game regarding the possibility of fans being allowed to attend as this will obviously depend greatly on the pandemic situation and whatever protocol the medical experts decide upon when they evaluate the risk factor at that moment in time.

Nevertheless, this is great news for golf, and indeed for sport, in the province that two international events are to go ahead here next month.

I can guarantee that the players will find a superb course in immaculate condition and with facilities to match. There will also be the renowned customary warm welcome and hospitality awaiting everyone who sets foot in the place.

Galgorm Castle is one of those golf clubs that, despite growing in stature year after year, has never lost its vital humility and, of course, that makes the whole golfing experience a much more pleasurable one, so a tremendous well done must go to Gary Henry and all the team at Galgorm who made all of this possible.

Former stars' support will sav the day

Thirty years after his last visit to the StatSports SuperCupNI, one of the tournament's favourite graduates is returning with his own band of aspiring young footballers in 2021.

Former Leicester City and Derby County midfielder Robbie Savage has confirmed that his Pro-Football Academy Under-15s will play in the junior section next summer.

Savage was, of course, part of that famous Manchester United side that won the 1991 Final - back when it was the Milk Cup - against Hearts.

Pro-Football Academy is one of the most progressive youth set-ups in England and, despite only being formed in 2015, the club has already provided an exciting pathway for young players at grassroots level to attract the attention of a number of English League clubs.

Over 100 of their players have already gone on to sign contracts with professional sides, and the Pro-Football Academy team regularly take on the likes of Manchester United and Manchester City.

Former Welsh international Savage is heavily involved in the coaching staff, and the Wrexham native has very fond memories of his last trip to our North Coast all those years ago when his team-mates included the likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Nicky Butt.

I therefore feel it is an absolute testimony to the StatSports SuperCupNI organisers that, despite facing many obstacles and pitfalls over the years, the tournament's credibility has stood the test of time, and the secret of its longevity surely lies with examples like this where people like Robbie Savage are keen to return, and clearly this speaks volumes for its reputation.

Belfast Telegraph