Young footballing ambassadors for the Roe Valley - on and off the pitch

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Take a trip to the 3G playing fields any Tuesday or Thursday evening in Limavady and it’s buzzing with the next generation of footballers.

footballers weA steady stream of cars enter the grounds with parents dropping their kids off for training with Roe Valley Football Club.

The Roe Valley U9 squad who were winners of the Larne 7's competiton on Easter Monday. INLV1715-026KDR

The Roe Valley U9 squad who were winners of the Larne 7's competiton on Easter Monday. INLV1715-026KDR

Wearing their bright blue and yellow strips, the lads race to the pitch, throw off their jackets on the sidelines and make a dash for the first football they see.

They can’t wait to stuck into training.

Roe Valley U9s (2006) manager, Ryan McGonigle, said since the team started three years ago success has followed.

“We participate in the Ballysally league, Coleraine district, every Saturday and we are U9, but we have been moved up because of the standard of the team. It’s a good quality side,” said Ryan, as the boys weave through sets of coloured cones flying through a series of fast-paced drills.

Members of the Roe Valley U9 squad during a training session this week. INLV1715-024KDR

Members of the Roe Valley U9 squad during a training session this week. INLV1715-024KDR

“We usually train with 17 boys, and we have two sides - U9s and the Colts - just to give everyone a chance to play football,” said Ryan.

“We’re a very successful side. We entered three tournaments and won three of them - the Coleraine Cup, the Roe Valley Cup and the Larne 7s. So far, that’s three out three and we’re off to Belfast on May 9 for a tournament, and hopefully we’ll make that four out of four.”

Chasing a quadruple win, Ryan joked: “And, if you know what the fifth ‘ruple’ is we’ll take that as well!”

Ryan paid tribute to the parents for their support and dedication.

The Roe Valley U9 squad during a trainingg session this week. INLV1715-022KDR

The Roe Valley U9 squad during a trainingg session this week. INLV1715-022KDR

“Without the parents this would not succeed because they are so supportive. The children pay their way, the parents are there every Saturday. They take them to the matches, there is no need to ask for lifts, so we thank the parents for doing what they do,” said Ryan. “These boys never miss unless they’re sick or in a school play. The dedication is there, and we’ve a couple of cracking players, but they’re young yet. No pressure!”

Fellow U9s manager, John Mailey, used to play for Roe Valley seniors.

“One season, about four years ago, the team folded for a full season and they asked some of the older ones, who used to play, to try and get a committee started and get the club back up and going. Myself and Feargheall Mullan started the youth system - that’s where the future is - and we’ve had quite a success,” said John.

“It’s a really strong team for their age and they play up a level. They went unbeaten at U9 level and are doing really well at U10.”

John said the lads are a credit, not just to themselves and the Club but to their parents.

“These wee boys are getting really noticed throughout Northern Ireland and are being recognised for their talent. Definitely, they’re real ambassadors for the area and they’ve put youth football for Limavady and the club on the map.”

John isn’t playing anymore, but said: “I think I get a bigger buzz now watching the boys playing than I ever did playing, and seeing how much success they’re having.”

The dedicated parents both managers praise can’t say enough good about the club. Kelly Clyde said her son Owen “absolutely loves” the club.

“He says the coaches treat all the boys the same,” said Kelly. “All the boys are very close and I think that is down to the coaches.”

Emma Cormie said her son Sam loves the football, but also loves being with his friends and “he wouldn’t miss it”.

Roisin Kirk’s said son, Martin, wouldn’t miss training and said “the coaching they get is unbelieavble”.

As for the boys, their enthusiasm is infectious.

The players all agree Roe Valley is “the best team” and admit they love to win.

Ben hailed the parents and their support.

“I like playing football because we usually win,” said Ben, a centre midfielder, “and we’re all friends.

Kyle, a right back, said the players pass well and respect each other.

Striker Joe, who has scored a whopping 101 goals in the last year, said the best bit is when the team plays and they celebrate.

“We all be kind to each other and we play good. We are friends too,” said Joe, adding apart from scoring goals, he loves a good victory cheer.