HISTORY was created by the Integrated College Dungannon when its partnership with the Irish Football Association (IFA) in establishing the first ever Elite Performance football school in Northern Ireland was officially launched on Thursday afternoon.
The IFA as part of its new five-year strategy is aiming to establish six performance schools in the North by 2019 and, as revealed by our sister paper the Dungannon Herald back in August, the Dungannon school is leading the way in combining academic studies with an in-timetable programme of football coaching and development.
The first intake includes 12 boys who have come through the IFA’s Club NI development programme from an early age.
The association will also develop the programme in the future to provide the same opportunity to young female footballers.
At Thursday’s launch attended by IFA chief executive Patrick Nelson and chairman David Martin, Elite Performance director, Jim Magilton said the IFA and the school were committed to growing the programme together to benefit the educational and football ambitions of the boys taking part.
“Players in Northern Ireland lag significantly behind their counterparts in most other countries when it comes to the amount of time they spend each week with coaches,” said the former NI international.
“Through the schools’ programme players will significantly increase their contact time and the players will be better equipped to succeed in their football ambitions, while also being able to gain a solid education. I would like to thank Integrated College Dungannon for being the first school to partner with us in this way and I look forward to seeing these young footballers succeed both on the pitch and in the classroom.”
Integrated College principal Andrew Sleeth said he believed the ethos of his school was the perfect fit for the vision the IFA had for the innovative programme.
Mr Sleeth said the new venture had been 18 months in the making but was convinced those efforts have paid off.
“I am delighted that we are the first school to partner with the Irish FA on this innovative programme,” he said.
“We seek to set high academic standards for all of our students and to enrich the lives of our pupils through sport and other extra-curricular activities. This partnership will see us continue to deliver educationally while also having the Irish FA provide the highest standards of football coaching to these 12 pupils.
“It is a hugely dynamic and exciting programme and I look forward to seeing the educational and sporting success that it brings to these young footballers in the years to come.”
In the first year of the programme, IFA coaches will work with the boys four evenings a week after school.