Northern Ireland boss Ian Baraclough has given a pep talk to students attending Northern Ireland’s only full-time residential academy for elite young footballers.
The senior men’s team manager chatted at length online with the 29 students from across the country who attend the Irish FA JD Academy in collaboration with UEFA, which is based at Ulster University’s Jordanstown campus.
Gerard Lyttle, head coach at the academy, said: “For the international manager to take time out to chat to our academy lads speaks volumes.
“It shows that our manager has a keen eye on the development of our future players. His words gave our boys a massive lift and filled them with huge encouragement to continue working hard.”
He revealed the manager spoke to the students about coping at home during lockdown and his experiences as a father.
“Ian also spoke about helping others who are vulnerable or less fortunate in his community, which was brilliant for the boys to hear as we constantly are educating them not only to strive to be good footballers but, more importantly, to be good people,” he added.
He gave out some good advice on how we can cope in these tough times and how we can stay motivated with our training. He explained the importance of staying active both physically and mentally
Student Caolan Donnelly said he really enjoyed the Zoom meeting.
He pointed out: “Being able to speak with the first team manager was brilliant. During this pandemic many other young athletes are getting no contact from their clubs and coaches and yet we are getting the chance to speak to the international manager and all our coaches.
“That just shows how much of an amazing opportunity the academy gives us young players and how special it is.”
Fellow student Bobby Harvey was also thrilled by the chat with Ian Baraclough.
He said: “He taught us many ways to deal with boredom in lockdown and showed us many ways you can make things more exciting by keeping things competitive between us. The Zoom helped me to push myself on as he was talking about not cutting corners or you will be caught out in football.
“I believe the Zoom with Ian will benefit my actions on the pitch as he was talking about what it takes to be a good leader. You don’t have to be a vocal leader to make an impact.”
Above: Northern Ireland senior men's boss on a video call with players from the Irish FA JD Academy in collaboration with UEFA
Like tens of thousands of other students across Northern Ireland the boys at the academy are currently being educated at home via online lessons due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The academy boys, who are in school years 11 and 12 (U15 and U16), have also been given training programmes to follow.
Student Josh Roney said: “It was brilliant for the manager to spend some time speaking to us.
“He gave out some good advice on how we can cope in these tough times and how we can stay motivated with our training. He explained the importance of staying active both physically and mentally.”
Run by the Irish Football Association in conjunction with the university, the JD-backed academy project is focused on developing elite players. Its main objective is to produce better players through a mixture of sporting, school and life skills education.