The Irish FA has partnered with Integrated College Dungannon to create Northern Ireland’s first football performance school.
The first intake will see 12 Year 8 pupils combine their academic studies with an in-timetable programme of football coaching and development.
Establishing Elite Performance Schools is a long-term strategic objective of the Irish FA and the association aims to create six performance schools across Northern Ireland by 2019.
The association will also develop the programme in the future to provide the same opportunity to young female footballers.
At the launch Irish FA Elite Performance Director Jim Magilton said: “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.
“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.”
The Principal of Integrated College Dungannon, Andrew Sleeth, added: “I am delighted that we are the first school to partner with the Irish FA on this innovative programme.
“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.”