Lisburn’s major youth policy is set to undergo a serious examination as the club gears up for a new season in a bid to bring silverware to Wallace Park for the first time in years.
Their 20/20 triumph in 2008 seems like a lifetime ago, but having invested so heavily with their up and coming players, maybe the fortunes are about to change.
No fewer than eight were in the side which lost to Instonians in the opening league game, but its early days.
Captain David Simpson, a former Ireland A and Northern Knights all-rounder, believes the club is about to enter a fascinating phase. The signs are good, he said.
He added: “This season is all about achieving results from our youth policy which has been so much part of the club’s mantra. They’ve had the best of coaching and they now face their first real test.
“They all done extremely well at junior level. Now they have to step up to the mark at a much higher level.”
Simpson, 31, a teacher at Wallace High, will be looking to the likes of Adam Berry, an Ireland under-19 batsman, spinner Aaron McKeown, just 17 and wicket keeper Neil Kilpatrick, a scrum half with the Ulster under-19 rugby team who arrived after spending his formative years with Lurgan.
These three and up to six others who are in the running for places in the 1st X1 have all emerged from the club’s impressive coaching programme under the stewardship of the South African player/coach Darryl Brown who is back at Lisburn for his fourth season in the NCU Premier League.
They haven’t won the league since sharing the title in 1996 Cliftonville or the Challenge Cup which they also shared with North Down two years before then.
But Simpson, who has been with Lisburn for 14 years – his father Dean has just been succeeded as club president by Ian Ross – is excited about the season ahead, especially with Brown at his side.
The skipper added: “He is very, very good, and that’s why Lisburn are delighted to have him back. Not only is he a good player, but he is also a fantastic coach.
“He is so meticulous. He has time for everyone, particularly the young players, and has a sharp eye which helps enormously in developing and improving their technique.”
The club, the second oldest in Ireland, has confirmed a new three year sponsorship arrangement with McLean Bookmakers, the largest independent bookmaking chain in Northern Ireland with more than 60 shops, two of them in Lisburn.
Managing director Paul McLean said: “We’re delighted to be associated with a club which has such a long and distinguished history, but which is also looking to the future by bringing on so many young players. Lisburn is setting a great example for the youth of the city.”