Lisburn Youth’s on fire... Euro 2016 glory for several former local players

The Northern Ireland team before their Euro 2016 game against Ukraine at the Stade de Lyon, France. Photo by William Cherry

The Northern Ireland team before their Euro 2016 game against Ukraine at the Stade de Lyon, France. Photo by William Cherry

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The Green and White Army won hearts if not the tournament when they reached the last 16 of Euro 2016 recently.

Michael O’Neill’s men - not just Will Grigg - were on fire in France as their heroics saw them come through their group against world champions Germany, Poland and, of course, there was that memorable win against Ukraine.

Gareth McAuley celebrates scoring against Ukraine during the second Euro 2016 game at the Stade de Lyon, France.  Photo by William Cherry

Gareth McAuley celebrates scoring against Ukraine during the second Euro 2016 game at the Stade de Lyon, France. Photo by William Cherry

What many might not know, however, is that local club Lisburn Youth produced several of Northern Ireland’s heroes.

Six former Youth players made it into the NI squad for Euro 2016, a feat club spokesman Stuart Caswell, the club’s U14 manager calls ‘quite remarkable for a boys club’.

“It is a tribute to the dedication and hard work the coaches and everyone involved put in and are still producing players to professional clubs to this day,” Stuart added.

“We are all extremely proud of what the guys have achieved in France. It’s been a fantastic achievement.”

Aaron Hughes, Gareth McAuley, who was on the scoresheet against Ukraine, Alan Mannus, Josh Magennis, Jonny Evans and Conor McLaughlin all played for Lisburn Youth during their junior days.

Stuart commented: “Hughes, McAuley, Mannus and McLaughlin played the whole way through to U15/U16 level with the club, with McAuley winning player of the year at Under 16.

“The team that McAuley and Hughes played in was a special team that won basically everything they were playing in throughout their time at Lisburn Youth.

“And of course the highlight being the California Cup, where they went to America for three weeks and competed against the very best teams from around the world and came home as champions,” Stuart added.

“The team also included ex-internationals David Healy, Grant McCann, Wayne Carlisle and Andy Smyth to name a few. A dream team of boys football, if you like.”

Many of the Lisburn Youth players representing Northern Ireland were discovered by Lisburn man Eddie Coulter.

Eddie, a founding member of Lisburn Youth, helped to start the careers of hundreds of aspiring young footballers, eventually going on to become a scout for Manchester United.

Stuart commented: “Eddie was one of the founder members of Lisburn Youth that started the club back in 1972.

“He was a pleasant man, and a proper footballing man and is held in the highest regard within the club and we will always remember his contribution to us and junior football as a whole.

“As well as the the players mentioned, other ex-Lisburn Youth players he scouted were David Healy and Keith Gillespie both of whom went to Manchester Utd.

“As a club we would like to congratulate not just our former players, but the whole squad and Michael O’Neill for the achievement in making it to the Euros and for getting as far as they have.

“It has brought a great feel good factor to everyone and has gave the kids an extra “buzz” and incentive to do as best they can knowing that they could follow in their footsteps.”