Saintfield soccer challenge

Saintfield soccer challenge

6 January 2021

SAINTFIELD United FC took part in a cross-community football project before Christmas.

The Rowallane and Slieve Croob Community Twinning Group requested funding support from the Newry Mourne and Down Police and Community Safety Partnership to run the event, which was called ‘Youth v Experience’.

On Saturday, December 19, 20 juniors played football matches, with young players pitched against senior and veteran players. 

Matches were organised in which mixed teams of juniors, seniors and veterans played together. Teams were balanced in terms of age, gender, and ability to demonstrate the effects on a team when different ages and experience come together.

The club ensured that the event was managed safely and complied with the Covid-19 health and safety regulations in place.

In the afternoon Saintfield United’s first team beat Downpatrick 5-2, so it proved to be a successful day all round for the host club. 

Saintfield United president Jim Spratt said: “It was great to be able to be involved in the project, coming as it did just before a complete lockdown of sporting activities.

“Everyone was really pleased with how it went, and the youth players seemed very excited at having the opportunity to play against the more experienced players. For my part, I would say it is something that the club will do again.”

Mr Spratt thanked the twinning group and Newry Mourne and Down Police and Community Safety Partnership for the selection boxes, which will be distributed to the children on the first return to mini-soccer. 

Sixteen year-old Joshua Johnson said: “It was a good morning. It was good experience for the youth teams to play alongside the seniors. I would enjoy doing it again, it was good fun and a laugh.”

Father-and-son Philip and Matthew King also participated. Matthew said: “I really enjoyed it. It was a bit of craic and it was great to get to play some football.”

Dad Philip said: “It was a brilliant morning of fun. The opportunity to play football with all different generations was great.

“It helps both in terms of strengthening that sense of community within the club. Also for people’s mental health and well-being moving into another lockdown without competitive football it is important we do what we can.”

Michael Stoneman a senior player and youth coach with the club, added: “It was great to be part of today’s matches. Seeing players from across the ages come together, united in the game we love, it was really worthwhile.” 

Saintfield United FC was formed in 1972. The club has over 300 members, aged between five and 50 plus. The club actively promotes good health and well-being for all their members and organises suicide awareness events and workshops on drugs prevention and awareness. 

There are four adult teams, while the junior teams from U-12 to U-17 play in the South Belfast Youth League. 

There is also mini-soccer is for boys and girls of primary school age and takes place on Saturday mornings, with ‘small-sided games’ available on a Sunday morning in Downpatrick.

Karen Patterson, chair of the Rowallane and Slieve Croob Community Twinning Group, thanked Saintfield United FC for running the event so professionally in these challenging times.

She also thanked the Newry, Mourne, and Down Policing and Community Safety Partnership for their financial support for this event.