They are a club that is intrinsically linked with one of Europe’s top youth football tournaments, yet Greenisland Football Club have never kicked a ball in anger at the competition based around the North Coast.
However, that will all change this summer as the Greenisland U13s take their pride of place in the newly established 2018 Super Cup NI Minor section.
The East Antrim outfit was founded back in 1995 after three local men decided to start the club after discussions on the North Coast during the competition.
Fast forward 23 years later, Greenisland Football Club is one of the biggest and most renowned clubs in the country – with Northern Irish internationals Jonny Evans, Craig Cathcart, Corey Evans and Michael Smith all learning their trade at Glenkeen Avenue before making the step up to professional football.
It will be a proud moment for the club who have been long-time friends of the organising committee and back in 2012 the club welcomed European heavyweights Liverpool and Benfica to their home for the 30th anniversary games against County Antrim.
Leading the Greenisland side at the competition this year is manager Niall McGovern and he said everyone is excited about the challenges that await them.
“Our club has close links with the competition. We were formed from locals meeting at the competition and wanting to form a Greenisland football team and ultimately watch local players represent their county at the tournament.
“One of our first ever Greenisland players to play in the competition was a certain Jonny Evans in 2002.
“When County Antrim won the tournament in 2015 for the first time there were 7 ex-Greenisland players involved and once this opportunity opened for the club to actually enter the competition we didn’t hesitate.”
The Glenkeen Avenue outfit play their football in the National Youth League and McGovern said his talented panel have what it takes to shine on the North Coast.
“We are more than capable of going up there and impressing.
“Our tournament win in Barcelona was well publicised and I think that brought a bit of extra belief to the squad. We are competing well in the league and it is a very talented but inconsistent age group across the league.
“We have a talented panel and three of our players are involved in the 2005 Club NI so we have a squad that is more than capable of competing.”
Greenisland have been pitched in a tricky group with Reeds from India, Ballinamallard and Bertie Peacock Youths. McGovern said there will be little to separate the three local sides.
“I guess Reeds go into the competition as an unknown quantity and we won’t know much about them until their first game. Ballinamallard and Bertie Peacock are two top sides and they are competing in the NIBFA Cup final on Monday and there will be very little between all of the local sides in our group.”
The colourful opening parade through the thronged streets of Coleraine on opening night will be something all of the players participating will never forget.
“It is all the players are talking about at the moment,” said McGovern.
“They are all buzzing about taking part in the parade, standing next to all the world class teams and the media and TV interest that comes with it.”
The East Antrim outfit are in the process of playing their final league matches in the National Youth League season and will take stock of another progressive season, before commencing their Super Cup preparations.
“We will take a break for a few weeks and start up again on June 5th. We’ve just put the finishing touches to our pre-tournament schedule and we will be training four times a week in the build up to the tournament.
“We are a family orientated club and we are very enthusiastic about this opportunity and how much it means to the club.
“The boys and their parents have really bought into what we are trying to do and we can’t wait to get started come Sunday, July 22.”