Pat McGibbon’s priority on his opening fixture as interim Portadown boss may have been senior safety but the former Shamrock Park youth product also confirmed his commitment to the grassroots game.
McGibbon left Shamrock Park in the 1990s and spent around a decade in professional football across the water before returning home for Irish League spells at Portadown and Glentoran.
He kicked off a first matchday in charge of Portadown with a morning session at his Train To Be Smart Juniors youth programme before extending that focus on the future to the Danske Bank Premiership game against Coleraine.
A panel depleted by injury and suspension restricted McGibbon’s options but he promoted promising teenagers Zac Wilson and Nathaniel Ferris to the substitutes’ bench.
Marcio Soares and Matthew Parker continued to gain first-team experience by starting the league clash with Coleraine, with Mikey Withers - another young player - also on the bench beside teenagers Martin Marron and Padraig Judge.
Ferris was introduced off the sidelines and added a spark to the second-half display with an energetic cameo.
“No matter who is in charge beyond this season, it is about a long-term infrastructure across the ranks,” said McGibbon during preparations for the Coleraine game. “I know a lot of the youth players, especially from my time working with County Armagh’s Milk Cup programme.
“People like Zac Wilson, Luke Wilson and Nathaniel Ferris have all made really good progress this season and it is important to reward that by introducing players into the senior set-up.
“It is also important for the future of Portadown Football Club to blood our young players at the right time to help with development.
“Over the rest of the season we will be bringing in younger players into the senior squad to learn from the established players and I believe that is always the best approach for any successful club.
“Although I am looking towards the long-term development of the younger players, it is too soon to start thinking about the futures of the senior squad beyond this season.”