PORTADOWN firsts wrapped up the season last week with a Conference League visit to face Ballynahinch seconds.
The 44-11 defeat to a Ballynahinch side featuring a string of players with senior experience provided Richard Hedley - the Portadown coach - with a number of positives.
“We introduced quite a few young players, due to injuries but also because now is the perfect time to give people an opportunity,” said Hedley. “Certainly the players called up did not let anyone down and James McMaster, in particular, looked impressive at prop.
“I was a bit disappointed with the Ballynahinch line-up as they had led us to believe they were really struggling, only to have a strong side out on the field.
“However, we battled well and I cannot fault the commitment on the part of our players.
“It was 18-6 at the break then 44-11 overall and I can certainly take good points out of the trip in terms of the effort put in across the board.”
Hedley will now turn his full focus to refining the panel for next season’s Chambers Park campaign.
“I will have phone conversations with the players over a week or two then hold a proper team meeting to discuss the next step.
“Over the past few seasons we have lost quite a few players and only really brought a handful in so this summer will be about strengthening across the roster.
“It is not just about adding top-notch players for the starting line-up, you need guys for the seconds and down the club.”
Another example of the town club’s youth progress arrived during a recent victory over a touring party from Spain.
“I go out to Spain quite a bit and have established a relationship with the Santboi Ana club in Barcelona,” said Hedley. “They came over recently for a tour of Northern Ireland so we arranged a match at Chambers Park.
“They managed to beat Instonians by a point before coming to Portadown and our under 17s finished 29-10 in front.
“The conditions were excellent and it was a nice boost for our boys, plus Santboi Ana really enjoyed the post-match hospitality.”