Football/Soccer

Celtic connection grows as Belfast Celtic forge links with Glasgow giants

Belfast Celtic joint manager Stephen McAlorum (centre) celebrates the club's partnership with Glasgow Celtic, along with, from left, Aidan McCrudden, Brendan Shannon, Ciaran Donnelly and Oisin Devlin. Picture by Mal McCann
Neil Loughran

THE Celtic connection with Ireland has grown even stronger as a result of an exciting new partnership between the Glasgow giants and the ambitious Belfast Celtic club.

Fresh from their nine in-a-row success - which was confirmed on Monday - the Bhoys academy has formed a link-up that will offer a possible pathway to Paradise for Belfast Celtic’s emerging talents.

It is a major boost for the west Belfast club, who compete in the Ballymena & Provincial Intermediate League but have Irish League ambitions – and then some.

“We’re a forward-thinking club,” said Seoirse MacAnna, who is involved with the Belfast Celtic academy.

“The academy only started in July last year and has grown steadily. John McStay [Glasgow Celtic’s international soccer academy manager for Europe] came over a few months ago and had a chat with us - he was very enthusiastic about the whole project, so everybody’s excited about it getting off the ground.

“There are people here who have great vision and they want to move and take Belfast Celtic forward. The aim in the medium term is to get into the Irish League. Beyond that, who knows? You have to dream big.

“This will be a great way of helping young people achieve whatever aspirations they have and giving players and coaches alike a chance to reach their full potential.”

Belfast Celtic, who are based at Glen Road Heights, will “play a full part in Celtic’s ever-growing international club partnership programme”, with the aim for a long-term relationship that will see a range of activities take place as Celtic soccer academy “shares coaching methodology, curriculum and delivers training camps with coaches and players from Belfast Celtic”.

They will also have the opportunity to send coaches to the four-day international coaches’ convention in Glasgow every year, offering them a behind-the-scenes insight into the academy system at the reigning Scottish champions.

“We are absolutely delighted to announce that Belfast Celtic have joined our highly regarded international club partnership programme, which further reinforces our commitment to helping grassroots clubs from across the globe,” said John McStay from the Glasgow Celtic academy.

“Our aim is to help Belfast Celtic continue to develop their football programme and there will be a great deal of activity in the coming months and years. We look forward to working with their players and coaches in the near future.”

Another aspect of the partnership will be a five-day Celtic summer camp in Belfast – the first one of which had been due to take place next month but will now be rescheduled to another date.

“This partnership will help develop and support our football development programme, benefitting not only Belfast Celtic academy players who will participate in a range of joint football activities,” said Joe McCrudden from the Belfast Celtic academy.

“These will include Celtic’s annual three day elite soccer camp and, for the first time in the history of both Belfast Celtic and Celtic, a five-day Celtic summer camp hosted by Belfast Celtic and managed by coaches from both clubs.

“Belfast Celtic academy will always endeavour to offer young people of the community the opportunity to engage in sport - competitive and non-competitive - through Belfast Celtic academy mini-soccer/grassroots coaching.”

The new-look Belfast Celtic came into existence after Sports and Leisure Swifts’ application to change the club’s name was approved last year. They are currently managed by former Glentoran midfielder Stephen McAlorum and ex-Donegal Celtic boss Paddy Kelly.

Belfast Celtic joint manager Stephen McAlorum holds a Glasgow Celtic shirt after the two clubs formed a partnership at academy level. Picture by Mal McCann

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Football/Soccer