Now in its sixth year, the appetite for the return of one of Northern Ireland’s biggest and most successful cross-community sporting events was clear to see as crowds thronged to the pitches at Lough Moss Leisure Centre for two fun-filled days of football.
Attracting teams from right across Northern Ireland, the youth football tournament played host to over one thousand boys and girls from as young as five, all hoping to lay claim to one of the many trophies up for grabs.
Irish Football Association president Conrad Kirkwood, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey, Belfast South MP Claire Hanna, and a range of MLAs and local councillors from across most political parties, taking in the football spectacle.
Commenting on the success of the event, Carryduff Colts FC chairman Eamon Deeny said: “This year’s tournament was undoubtedly our most successful to date.
“We received incredibly positive feedback from participating teams and this event is well on its way to becoming a major must-attend end of season highlight for clubs across the entire region. “With improved facilities on the way at Lough Moss, coupled with the attendance of Ministers, MPs, MLAs, councillors and council officials, we are confident we can get the support we need to make the tournament ever better and bigger. “It is vital we acknowledge the incredible work of the organising committee, the army of volunteers and our incredibly generous partners, who made the tournament the success it was, the amount of organisation, hard work and ingenuity on display was a sight to behold. “Finally, thank you to the 4,000 or so players, parents and coaches from all of the clubs who participated. We look forward to seeing you all back next year.”
Carryduff Colts, with almost 800 playing members, is one of the largest and fastest growing clubs in this region and the tournament reflects the club’s ethos of providing opportunities for boys and girls to play football and develop their skills in a safe, cross community environment.
The sheer scale of the Colts has in recent years seen the club campaign for fresh pastures, with the club in desperate need of improved facilities and pitches in the town to support their growing numbers.
Darker winter nights see hundreds of Colts leave Carryduff and travelling to facilities across Belfast and other parts of Co Down for suitable facilities and the call for investment is hoping to head off a situation where year groups already containing over 70 boys and girls are forced to turn people away.
The club have welcomed assurances that work on a new 3G pitch will begin in 2023 but say that with demand growing, more investment is needed to provide adequate facilities and bring pitches up to a higher standard and setting the stage for an even bigger and better Cross Community Cup in 2023.