Portadown’s position as a leading area for grassroots development was enhanced with double delight at the Northern Ireland seven-a-side finals.
The decision by members of the Mid-Ulster Schools’ Football Association to embrace the revamped blueprint for youth development received reward on two fronts in Cookstown as pupils from Orchard County and Edenderry picked up national prizes.
Edenderry finished the showcase as NI Large Schools’ Championship winners, with Orchard County lifting the NI Small Schools’ Championships title.
Edenderry coach Peter Mullan highlights past achievements as the platform for the memorable triumph.
“We won the Mullen Cup a few years back then the Northern Ireland five-a-side title and those previous wins helped to inspire the boys, plus give players key experience,” said Mullan. “The boys showed real desire and had fantastic support from the parents, fans and school.
“It has been great working with these boys, some for two or three years.
“Sport can play such an important part of a child’s development in terms of lifeskills and we embrace that idea at Edenderry.
“It was also great to see Orchard County win the national title and a real boost for the two groups but also the work put in by people like Stephen Guy and Jim Brown to develop schools’ football, not to mention the dedication from those connected to Portadown Youth and other clubs.
“Our 0-0 draw with Holy Cross to open was actually a great way to start as it handed the boys confidence due to the performance against a bigger side.
“We had so much belief and went on to beat St John’s of Londonderry by 2-0 following a great football match.
“We also got a win over Victoria, the national five-a-side champions, in the group before a semi-final success against Howard.
“We met St John’s again in the final and conceded our first goal of the tournament before eventually winning thanks to a Lewis Fox finish off Zach Cowan’s cross.
“Credit to the boys as they have really embraced the idea behind the seven-a-side format.”