Greenisland FC supporting players’ development on and off the pitch

With a rich pedigree for nurturing future Irish League and Northern Ireland players, Greenisland FC has become firmly embedded in the community.

The Glenkeen Avenue-based club, which was formed in 1995 with limited resources and a small squad, now fields almost 30 teams and has impressive playing facilities.

Speaking to the Times, the club’s head of football, Marc Gamble, said: “We aim to develop players holistically on and off the pitch by providing a caring, inviting environment that is as professional as possible, that encourages all players to maximise their potential.

“It gives the club great pride to play a part in the development of a host of players who have progressed to professional and international football.

The club is developing a number of youth sides. (Pic Ephy McConnell).

“It also gives us great pride to see the vast number of players not only progressing to the Irish League, but also those players who stay within the club or those who play locally.

“As a club, we are extremely proud to have four former players, Jonny Evans, Corry Evans, Michael Smith and Craig Cathcart, in recent Northern Ireland squads with Dale Taylor called up most recently. Contributing five players to the Northern Ireland squad is an honour.”

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As well as developing Premier League and international players, the club as also undergone a transformation off the pitch.

Marc explained: “Our home has developed over the past number of years and now includes floodlit intermediate level 3G pitch with a 128-seater stand and a clubhouse which houses a main hall, cafe, players’ lounge, kitchen, meeting room and a gym.

Greenisland players and mascots pictured ahead of their recent Irish Cup match against Lisburn Distillery. (Pic Ephy McConnell).

“In addition to another two grass pitches, we own a small 3G training pitch, club shop, mental health and wellbeing hub and a changing room block.

“We’ve four senior teams, eight youth teams, nine foundation teams, two pre-foundation age groups (The Munchkins), an over 35s team (The Titans), three female groups, a community football group and a disability group (The Bears).”

He added: “We have 400 members, aged from five to over 55, 100 volunteers and an ever-growing supporter base. Our senior teams compete in the Northern Amateur Football League and also the Ballymena and Provincial Football League.

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“Our youth and foundation teams compete in NIBFA National League, South Belfast Youth League and IFA Games Development Programmes.”

Although the club has only been in existence for just over a quarter of a century, it is a key part of the Greenisland community. This was evident during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

Marc said: “From the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the club responded quickly to support our local community, who have supported us over the years.

“We provided grant aid, delivery of hot meals, prescription deliveries, and a ‘knock and check service,’ along with creating a number of programmes to address social inclusion, food poverty, schools’ sports outreach.

“The football club now provides many mechanisms of support which may not have arisen if it weren’t for Covid-19.

“Also, the club supports a different charity every year. Most recently, we raised £4,000 towards Leukemia and Lymphoma NI.”

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Various teams from Greenisland FC have tasted success over the years, but Marc believes the club’s community ethos is one of its greatest achievements to date.

He said: “We have a wide number of notable achievements, nationally and internationally, in terms of trophies and cups, but we attribute our achievements to developing male and female players of all ages, whilst also developing our facilities. The impact the club has in the local community is now also regarded as as a big achievement.

“As a club, we strive to improve year on year. This could be on the pitch, off the pitch, through our community involvement, increasing the opportunities to have a positive impact on players and their families.”

Training is every night of the week at Glenkeen Avenue or UUJ. Potential players or coaches can contact the club through its Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn. Further information is also available on the club’s website.

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