U15 players at the Irish FA JD Academy had a “beneficial” time in Belgium this month when they took part in a five-day training camp.
During the camp they continued their exposure to football beyond these shores when they competed in friendlies against Belgian club sides.
The five-day trip was part of a collaboration with Belgian top flight club Oud-Heverlee (OH) Leuven, which hosted the JD Academy boys and coaches through its academy. Some U15 players from the Irish FA’s National Performance Programme were also in the travelling party.
OH Leuven coaches and Irish FA staff conducted joint training sessions to share best practice to expose players to different coaching cultures and methods.
The JD Academy squad played training matches against OH Leuven as well as Royale Union Saint-Gilloise and Lommel SK.
JD Academy coach Kris Lindsay revealed: “Overall it was a beneficial camp, with players having both on-pitch and off-pitch experiences which will aid their development as they continue their footballing journey.
“The matches provided a great learning environment for the players who performed well throughout, playing against different styles than they are used to.”
In their first match the U15s lost 2-1 against OH Leuven. The goalscorer was Christian Coyle. And Coyle was on target again in game two, which Northern Ireland lost 2-1 to Union SG.
In their third game the boys earned a 1-1 draw against OH Leuven – Matthew Burns was the scorer – and they enjoyed a 2-0 win over Lommel in their final match when Chris Atherton and George Feeney got the goals.
Prior to the trip, Andy Waterworth, Head of Elite Player Development with the Irish Football Association, pointed out: “We are keen to enhance development opportunities for our players on continental Europe. This trip shows we are willing to go further afield than the UK and Ireland to help our players develop.”
The collaboration with the Belgian Jupiler Pro League club has evolved from a study visit to the OH Leuven Academy back in November. Waterworth, Irish FA Technical Director Aaron Hughes and Irish FA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson took part in that visit.
Northern Ireland U15 squad for Leuven trip:
Goalkeepers – Kai Morgan (Ipswich Town), Cole Vary (Coleraine).
Defenders – Darragh McCann and Jayden Charnley (both Glentoran), Josef Orpwood (unattached), Leon Barr (Crusaders), Aaron KC (Derry City), Zak Sutton (Leicester City).
Midfielders – Callum Downey and Glenn McCourt (both Derry City), Jack Faloona (Glentoran), Troy Savage (Castle Juniors, Bangor), Christian Coyle (Bohemians), Matthew Burns (Coleraine).
Forwards – George Feeney (Glentoran), Chris Atherton (Glenavon), Brandon Downey (Crusaders), Oli Devlin (Derry City).
Image: The U15 Irish FA JD Academy squad which travelled to Belgium.