Clubs get the VIP treatment at NI game

BANBRIDGE Town Juniors U10s, along with their counterparts from Tandragee Rovers, Banbridge Rangers and Dromore Amateurs were given the red carpet treatment at half-time during the World Cup Qualifier clash between Northern Ireland and Israel and Windsor Park last Tuesday evening.

The local club were honoured and delighted to accept the invitiation from the IFA, and sent a bus full of excited boys along with their managers Paul Evans, Tony McCreanor, Anthony Blackburn and parents to witness the thrills and experience an international night at a packed Windsor Park.

The Under-10s, who are part of the Juniors’ Games Development Centre arrived early at the ground to sample some of the pre-match atmosphere at a big international night at Windsor Park. There was an added bonus for seven of the boys when they got the opportunity to practice the flag bearer duties at an international.

Their big moment came at half-time when they paraded around the pitch to a round of applause from the Northern Ireland supporters and the club name was read out over the Windsor Park PA system.

Coach Paul Evans said: “To see the look on some those boys faces was unbelievable. They really enjoyed the whole night and it’s an experience that will live with them forever. Everyone of them had a ball.

“Who knows, some day one of them lads might get to play at Windsor Park.”

There was one blip on the night however - apart from the result, the boys were supposed to play on the pitch at half-time, but unfortunately the groundsman said the surface was too wet.

Meanwhile young Steven Doherty from Banbridge got to live every young Northern Ireland fan’s dream as he walked out with the national team, after his mum won a competition with McDonald’s.

The opportunity to walk out as a Player Escort was provided through McDonald’s grassroots football website, McDonald’s KickStart, where users can access once-in-a lifetime opportunities such as walking out as Player Escorts. The website also allows local clubs to secure funding for development projects and gain useful information on coaching or running a club.

Steven walked out with Northern Ireland striker Martin Patterson and, according to his mum Joann, he thoroughly enjoyed his big day.

“Despite the weather and the result Steven really enjoyed his experience. Everyone we came into contact with was great, especially the girls from the Irish FA who despite the freezing weather and some kit mix ups, remained good humoured and enthusiastic throughout,” she said.

“Steven really felt as if he was playing an important part in the match build up. It was a fantastic experience from start to finish and I know it has created very special memories for him.”

For pictures see page 38.