YOUTH football continues to go from strength to strength, particularly in the Waterside.
One such programme that continues to grow is the Foyle Games Development Centre, which each week has hundreds of children playing small sided games in the Old Clondermot School grounds.
Local co-ordinator Gerry Colhoun believes the development centre, which has been based at Clondermot since 2008, will continue to get bigger.
“We have been at the old Clondermot School’s grounds for the past four years and it has been getting bigger and bigger each year, in fact it has been getting bigger and bigger each night,” admitted Colhoun.
“Clondermot is a fantastic facility locally because we bring 50 teams together playing over three nights.
“Although Thursday night may not be the biggest group of players we have through the week, but it certainly isn’t a small group.
“The good thing about it, it’s under 11 footballers, who play 9-a-side on a pitch, which is approximately three quarter size and have 16 feet by 7 feet goals, we think it’s a really good way to develop players.”
Over the years sectarian tensions were high around the school and because of that Colhoun is thrilled that both sides of the community are coming together at young age and enjoying a sport, which everyone likes.
“We like to get away from talking about the troubles, but lets be brutally honest we are now here at Clondermot High School and it was once described as a flash point area, we have kids now who play here from both sides of the community and further afield from the town, we use to have a big cross border connection last year and no one says a word.
“A child can come up here and wear his Glasgow Rangers kit on and another one can be wearing a Republic of Ireland kit on, it means nothing. It’s all about kids coming up wearing their teams colours and playing football in a nice environment and I don’t think you can beat that.
“We don’t care where they come from, in fact it’s great that we come up here and see all the club colours whether it’s red, green, blue, yellow, white or tangerine, we don’t care we are a facilitator who can afford to put out 50 teams a week playing football at Clondermot.”
International’s Shane Ferguson, James McClean and Daniel Lafferty are just a few of the young players who started their career’s at the Development Centre.
“One of our first players was a young man called Shane Ferguson, who played for Eglinton Eagles, he played three years with us, under 9 in Creggan and he’s now a Northern Ireland international and plays in the Premier League with Newcastle United.
“Daniel Lafferty, James McClean, Cormac Burke they are all international footballers and we gave them a kick start in their careers.”
The Trojans man, who has been connected to youth football for a few decades, is also delighted that the Irish Football Association has linked up with the Development Centre.
“Funding has always been difficult, especially in the current financial climate,” added Colhoun.
“When we first started approximately 20 years ago in the Bishop’s Field Sports Centre, it was around eight or nine teams and then they developed into the local D&D Youth Leagues and that was fantastic.
“We were an independent organisation up until two years ago and we are now a fully fledged IFA Mini Soccer Development Centre, to be honest we are one of the largest in the six counties.
“It’s good that we now have the IFA’s support with the McDonald’s Programme and every little bit of help you can get we reach out and grab it as we need it.”
Colhoun feels that the Maiden City will continue to develop players who will eventually play at senior level either here in the city or further afield.
“There is no doubt about it, the town is a hot bed for junior talent, we all know the number of good quality kids footballing wise in this city and all parts of this city is fantastic.
“When you get weather like that we had last Thursday night, it’s great seeing all the parents and grand parents sitting around the pitches on their summer seats and watching their kids playing their football to their hearts content.
“That’s kids playing football on small pitches, small footballs and parents stay behind six or eight feet away from the pitch and watch the games and to be honest that’s very important to us, we want to make sure that the parents stay out of the way and let their child or children just enjoy their development.”