Individual growth is grassroots goal

Darren Murphy (centre, IFA elite performance coach), a former Portadown player, with Northern Ireland youth internationals from the town club. From left, George Curran, Barney McKeown, Callum Ferris and Jack Conlon.
Darren Murphy (centre, IFA elite performance coach), a former Portadown player, with Northern Ireland youth internationals from the town club. From left, George Curran, Barney McKeown, Callum Ferris and Jack Conlon.

Portadown Youth’s overall commitment to player development has resulted in recognition and rewards across the club and country scenes.

Club figures confirm over 70 players have represented higher age levels this season - a statistic officials consider hard evidence of the focus on individual progress.

This strategy has also attracted support from international selectors and professional clubs.

Links on home soil and across the water with Manchester City, Everton, Swansea City and Glasgow Rangers have developed thanks to the potential within the grassroots ranks.

Highlights of appearances for the Club NI and Northern Ireland sides arrived, respectively, in Spain and Holland.

On the domestic front, no fewer than four teams have reached National Cup semi-finals.

“To have over 70 players moving up the ranks this season from across the under 10s to under 17s is a testament to the dedication of the coaching staff and, of course, the boys,” said Portadown Youth’s Noel Cowan. “To have youth players lining out with Portadown thirds and reserves marks a great boost.

“We are not aware of another club with those figures, in terms of giving players opportunities to that extent.

“We use the league games for player development but then treat the cup ties as a chance to develop that winning mentality.

“It is about getting the balance right and, ultimately, to hand each player the best opportunity to maximise that ability.

“The aim is to create a positive learning environment but to test the players to encourage growth.

“Moving up to Portadown’s thirds and reserves may present the first time some play 90 minutes.

“Others may move between seven-a-side to nine-a-side to 11-a-side.

“We are proud of the progress made so far and excited about the potential in the future.

“Decisions are made to benefit the individual.”