Larne club looks to the future with ambitious plans and youth setup

A Larne-based football club is building strong foundations for the future thanks to a promising youth setup as well as plans to develop its playing facilities.

Wellington Recreation (Rec) FC was formed in the 1950s, firstlyas AEI, the football team associated with the AEI engineering company’s factory in Larne. The club joined the Amateur League in 1959 before, in 1973, undergoing a name change to GEC after this firm took over the AEI factory.

Then, in 1993, when GEC closed down its factory in the town, the club was reformed under its current name and was allowed to retain its status and position in the Amateur League.

Today the club, which calls Brookvale Park in the Millbrook area of the town home, has eight youth sides and two senior teams, with its first team competing in the Northern Amateur Football League Division 1C and seconds in Division 3D.

The club's youth sides have tasted success.

The club’s Youth chairman, Gary Morrow, explained how the east Antrim side has been nurturing talent over the last decade.

He said: “Wellington Rec Youth was established 10 years ago by myself and vice chairman Thomas Hutchinson, when it was decided that the club needed a youth setup to bring in new players for the club.

“We wanted to develop them from a young age leading them into senior football while helping them make new friends and become part of the Wellington Recreation Football Club setup and the club has gone from strength to strength ever since.

“We currently have eight youth teams of different age right up to under 18s and two teams playing football at senior level within NAFL. We have created a player pathway from youth to senior football and we hope this will progress our youth teams through the senior ranks at the club.

The club has over 250 playing members and approximately 100 non-playing members.

“Over the short space of time that the youth section has been running we have had several teams getting to cup finals and promotion up through the leagues. We had our 2005 team win their final which was held at Seaview in north Belfast. Our 2004 and 2006 sides both made finals with the 2004s playing at Seaview and 2006s at Inver Park in Larne, respectively.

“We started a ‘toddler soccer section’ just before the coronavirus pandemic hit, which has increased beyond expectations. This means we now have teams training at every age group five nights per week.”

With over 250 playing members and approximately 100 non-playing members, volunteers and coaching staff, the club been rooted in the community for over 60 years and during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, members helped residents.

Gary said: “We teamed up with Millbrook Community Forum to deliver food parcels around Millbrook’s vulnerable residents, as well as making soup, stew and some baked goods. This was in addition to the excellent work that Millbrook Community Forum was already providing to the shielding and vulnerable. We also partnered up with the Agewell Partnership to deliver prescriptions in the Larne area as far down as Carnlough.”

These initiatives were on the back of fundraising efforts in aid of the Helping Hand charity, which raises funds to support the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children. This charity, “close to the hearts” of members has received £5,000 from Wellington Rec.

Gary added: “The club suffered just like all other business in the town and beyond, having to cancel tournaments, training and all social activities. Being a small grassroots club, it impacted greatly on the club’s ability to host external activities as it relies on the finance generated from both the club and members to plan the activities and to pay bills over the coming year.

“Through the great work of our committee and with the support of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s grant funding and activities programmes, we have been able to bounce back.

“The football club have just had their planning application passed for a new 4G pitch, fencing and floodlighting, which is greatly needed to ensure the club’s future sustainability and welcomed by the local community and further afield as there is a lack of community 3G provision in the Mid and East Antrim area as the population grows as well as the popularity of sport in the borough.”

Clubs interested in being featured in this new series, can get in touch with Russell Keers - email [email protected]

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