U14 Trip to partner club Glasgow Celtic

November 7, 2018

On Wednesday 22nd February Newbridge Town U14s (2003) travelled to Glasgow in the UK to forge a link with Glasgow Celtic. Newbridge Town have signed a partnership deal with Celtic’s International academy and the U14s tour was the first of three major events between the two clubs in 2017.

Newbridge Town U14s were crowned Kildare (KDUL) League and Cup winners last season (2015/16) and in less than a week take on the challenge of the Dublin Major (DDSL) for 2017 but as part of their pre-season, Manager Des  Balmer took the boys on a trip across the water  for some friendly games, training at Barrowfield with Celtic Academy coaches and Education at Celtic park on diet, nutrition and lifestyle of a professional academy player. In essence for 3 days and four nights these young men would get a glimpse of life as a football trainee. Plus they also got to take in Celtic versus Hamilton at parkhead.

First up was a friendly game at Barrowfield, the legendary training ground in the shadow of Parkhead. Newbridge Town played Scottish league side Queens Park, coached by Celtic Academy coach Tony Massie whilst Des got coaching support from another Academy coach, Johnnie McFarlane.  Johnnie was a former youth player with Celtic, Aberdeen and Dumbarton before injury ended his playing days.

The game was evenly matched and the ebb and flow was quite exciting with good passing football played by two teams obviously coached to attack. Newbridge took an early lead though a goal from Cillian Coogan but before the end of the first half Queens Park equalised. Early in the 2nd half Queens Park took the lead against the run of play that witness Alex Swift hit the bar and Ruairi Brown and Sean Donohoe force great saves from the Queens Park Keeper; however, the Town defence guided by Adam Balmer and Mikey O’Connell became rock solid and the Newbridge boys piled on the pressure with some outstanding wide play from full backs Morgan Hughes and Sam Mulrooney.

There was a right battle in midfield with Ruairi, Ethan Kerrigan and Paul Roberts taking the game by the scruff and before you knew it the 2-1 deficit was 2-2 when Alex Swift grabbed the equaliser. Minutes later the Kildare lads went ahead when Oisin Smith grabbed a goal and the game was all but over when Alex grabbed his second and Town’s fourth. The work rate of Roberts, Brown and Swift was superb and all the coaches watching commented on the amazing goalkeeping of Mark young and Tadg McGrath, especially Mark’s distribution. The attacking play of Ethan, Ruari, Alex and Oisin was a joy and the cameos from Eddie Mulroney and Aaron Donohoe was a nice touch as the two boys joined the squad for the trip with their siblings.

Johnny McFarlane debriefed the boys on a good performance and discussed some coaching points. Locally Queens Park are a very good schoolboy side and this was quite the scalp but the manner of the performance was very pleasing and as the Celtic coaches remarked a great sign of local grassroots soccer.  Despite a long day of travel the kids were on cloud 9.

The next day the lads were due to visit the Lennox Town training area to be coached and sample the first team, reserve team and academy work out but a snow storm got in the way so Celtic organised a session in Glasgow Green, a tremendous state of the art area used by Celtic, Rangers, Motherwell and others that was part of the Commonwealth Games developments.

Before the coaching session the boys got to visit Parkhead, the legendary of Celtic and many heroes from the Lisbon Lions to the more recent Dembele, Brown and  Sinclair. The tour was fabulous and the lads got to learn about the history and the Irish connection with the Glasgow giants. They also got to meet U17s Ladies manager and academy coach Kieran McAneny. Importantly they got to meet Hugh, the legend that gets to talk about legends all day every day on the tour.

After the tour of the team dressing room, bench, stands the lads got to eat in Lounge Number 7 and sample the same food from the chefs of the academy and then get ready to head to Glasgow Green for the first full session with McFarlane.

Johnny set the boys in with 4v1 Rondo’s and then some pass and move drills before finishing with a superb phase of play that worked on the strikers and defenders communicating with each other as they passed the ball through the thirds. No Hollywood balls allowed. The kids loved it. The kids responded so well to the coaches and the coaches to them. The Newbridge Town coaches learned a lot. The session finished with a game of cross bar challenge won by Goalie Tadg McGrath.

The following day the lads were back at Barrowfield early in the morning for another session with McFarlane. More 4v1s and a superb drill to encourage the overlapping full back and then a game. It was amazing to see this drill a major part of the first team performance on Saturday and even better to get the feedback from the boys who could see it unfold in front of them.

This time lunch was provided in the Jock Stein lounge at parkhead before a superb presentation on diet  and nutrition from International Academy Manager Barry Rogers before a quick and expensive trip to the Celtic megastore.

The final day we were set to play game 2 versus St Mirren then Glasgow City U17 girls but due to weather and  cup commitments it didnt happen so the lads got to spend some time with three north American players part of the international elite academy over from USA and Canada on trial before heading down to the very cool Emirates arena opposite park head and get one more session in with Academy coach Lee McGarrity before doing a fun 5 aside competition that featured a team of Dads.

After the punishment of the Dads the boys hopped into their coach, hit the hotel got changed and then went to Park Head to watch Celtic play Hamilton and win 2 nil without really breaking a sweat. All in all this was a truly remarkable trip full of fun and serious coaching and a wonderful  pre-season boost for the bhoys in blue. Last season the same team visited Ajax and did something similar but this experience was closer to the real thing, close to the real life of an academy kid in one of the worlds biggest clubs and any/all Newbridge town players have a seriously cool and potential life changing opportunity as a result of the clubs partnership. It also, as one boy remarked, the third game abroad and NTFC 2003 undefeated outside of Ireland doing their club, their family and themselves proud.

Mark Young, Tadgh McGrath, Sam Mulrooney, Adam Balmer, Mike O'Connell, Morgan Hughes, Paul Roberts, Cillian Coogan, Ruairi Brown, Alex Swift, Sean Donohoe, Ethan Kerrigan, Oisin Smith and Aaron Donohoe and Eddie Mulrooney will have long lasting memories and wonderful learning experiences that should stand them good stead in life and in football.

As a coach and a parent this was a fabulous experience for my team and my son. As a coach the link between the clubs is fascinating and full of opportunity for local players to get onto the radar of Celtic. Thanks to all the parents who worked hard to put this together, thanks to O'Neills and Little Kickers Naas for the new tops  and a special thanks to all the staff at Parkhead and the Celtic Academy for treating us like Celtic academy players. Who knows one day one ore more of us may adorn the famous green and white hoops. Lets keep dreaming. Lets keep working hard. Lets keep working together and Together Each Achives More (TEAM)

Next on the Newbridge Town-Celtic partnership is the inaugural Celtic cup between all Irish partners with Celtic and Newbridge U14s will compete in Kilkenny on good Friday and hopefully play their northern section counterparts in a final hosted in Newbridge Town's Station road pitch whilst Newbridge will host an Easter camp featuring many of the top class coaches the U14s worked with. The Celtic Easter camp runs in Newbridge from April 10th to 14th from 10am to 3pm and if the quality of coaching and coaches from this trip is an indicator then it comes highly recommended from a very good, knowledgeable 2003 team.