Don Bosco's reaping the benefits of exciting partnership with Celtic Football Club
DON Bosco's chairman Martin Crumley believes the exciting long-term association the local junior club has forged with Celtic Football Club has been largely responsible for the growing number of young people joining its ranks in recent years.
The club has officially announced a three-year extension of its strategic partnership with the Scottish Premier League giants until 2025 and Crumley is delighted that Bosco's kids will continue to enjoy the many perks of being part of the wider Celtic family.
The partnership involves the sharing of club methodologies, coach education, attending coaching camps and giving the kids and coaches the chance to be exposed to Celtic's world class Academy set-up at Barrowfield and the first team's base at Lennoxtown in Glasgow.
As part of the Celtic 'International Club Partnership Programme', Bosco's coaches have the opportunity to hone their own coaching skills by picking the brains and learning first hand on the pitch from some of the Scottish club’s top Academy coaches.
Last April Bosco's were able to bring 40 members over to Celtic where they were coached by Academy coaches in Barrowfield and they witnessed first hand what everyday life is like for an Academy player - a 'like-for-like experience' of being a Celtic academy player.
Those exciting trips to Scotland will continue this year with the club's 2007 age group travelling over in March for three days for training sessions in Barrowfield. A tour of Celtic Park is also on the itinerary as well as a visit to Lennoxtown before watching the Hoops entertain Hibs.
The club's 2008 age group will follow suit in April and they'll also get that famous matchday experience at the home of the Scottish champions who host Motherwell on that occasion.
Four Celtic Academy coaches visited Derry last summer for Bosco's summer camp at Leafair pitches attracting unprecedented numbers and with the extension of the partnership, the 2023 camp promises to be bigger and better in early July at both Leafair and Magee pitches which will cater for the large demand.
Celtic International Academy manager Jose Romero is regularly on hand to help guide, advise and develop Don Bosco's burgeoning young talent and Crumley believes it's a priceless connection he hopes to maintain for as long as possible.
For Bosco's 300 plus members, Crumley believes the partnership will continue to benefit their development as they aim to give young footballers the best possible pathway to achieve their potential in the sport.
"We have a membership of 300 plus now and we just started our girls set up on Monday when we had 40 in attendance, so we are just continuing to grow and grow.
"And because of our relationship and partnership with Celtic, that's probably one of the reasons, if not the main reason, our club keeps growing," said Crumley.
"For me as chair of the club, we had plans in place from when I took over and these are the types of things we want to be doing," he added. "We want National League status but for me this partnership with Celtic is way above everything else.
"This partnership goes back to 2017 and it just seems to keep on growing and the coaches coming over seem to be getting better and better so we just want to maintain that relationship.
"Working with Jose, who is guiding us and helping us develop our club is fantastic and that association and the experiences the kids can have here in Derry during the summer when the Academy coaches come over and when we go over to Glasgow, it's an amazing experience.
"Some of the comments that came from kids; one in particular was a kid phoning back home and saying; 'this is my best day ever' - that's class!"
The fact the club's partnership was renewed, one of around 30 world-wide, was a result of a lot of hard work and paperwork but also evidence that Celtic fully believe in the values of Don Bosco's Football Club and the professionalism of all involved.
"At Don Bosco's they have a high level of professionalism anyway and coaches are looking to try to develop themselves and at the same time those players to the best of their abilities. So I think sometimes because we are like-minded clubs, it's just about hearing it from a different voice and seeing it from a different environment but it almost echoes all the good messages and all the good work that Don Bosco's have put in the background in the first place.
"All the know-how I've been fortunate enough to learn at the club, is the stuff we pass on to the coaches of Don Bosco's so they can potentially pass on all that expertise to the parents and allow their seven or eight year old to have their own pathway and reach their highest potential."
So why opt to continue their relationship with the Derry club?
"Effectively, for us, Ireland as a whole represents a different opportunity from any other partnership we have all over the world," he explained.
"It's the spiritual home of the club of course so we would be very careful of first of all who we partner with in Ireland and making sure it's people who are serious about the club. But at the same time making sure that we are responsible for those young players and hopefully those Celtic fans of the future.
"From a development point of view, the main thing I think we do for the players of Don Bosco's is we offer a genuine standard of coaching, genuine standard of ideas and genuine way of working of what we do with the Academy players in Glasgow.
"So we're very, very careful of the type of coaches that go over from Celtic Football Club, making sure the guys are well experienced and have a good idea of the ethos and values of the club. And the values of the Academy of course.
"So for the players I guess the best we can do is give them a genuine, like-for-like experience of what our youth academy players get here in Glasgow.
"From a coach development point of view it's a similar idea. Marty and the coaches are really good and open to asking questions to the coaches that go over and making sure the experience is great for the players of course but at the same we're working side by side so it's a collaborative effort."
The 'collaboration' isn't about extending Celtic's large scouting network with Romero insisting it would be 'irresponsible' of the club to package the partnership programme as a pathway to the club's Academy given the 'miniscule' percentage of those who make the grade.
"To be completely honest it's not one of the things that we do," said Romero. "In an ideal situation you would say 'yes, it's fantastic to see that sort of thing'. But the percentage of a player making it through from a youth academy process to the first team is so miniscule that for us to say to parents, players or coaches that we're looking to potentially see a pathway is extremely irresponsible in the sense that the realism is that very, very few from our academy never mind any other academy around the world will progress into Celtic's academy. So we're very, very careful to make sure that's not the message.
"The message is more that we're trying to help the coaches within Don Bosco's develop themselves through their own coach education but also through the support we can give them. At the same time that will pass on to the players.
"From the players point of view hopefully they will get an experience like the guys at Don Bosco's who were over recently. The coaches managed to see the International Coaches Convention but also the players were able to experience playing against Glasgow players, guys from local academies and it's them almost setting themselves high standards.
"So for us, the wonderful thing would be to see those young Don Bosco's players playing at the highest level they can possibly play whether that's in Ireland or somewhere else. That would be fantastic but it wouldn't necessarily be for them to come over (and play) for Celtic because, it's not that it can't happen but it's something that's a bit irresponsible to base the programme on."
For the Bosco's chairman, he sees the many benefits of the contract and as a long-time Celtic fanatic himself, he's delighted to offer young Derry kids such a rich, memorable experience on those trips to Glasgow.
"We're taking a team in March and a team in April and Jose is organising a trip to Lennoxtown, Celtic's first team facility on the Saturday evening so having those types of experiences for our kids at Don Bosco's is second to none. It's sort of surreal at times for me as a big Celtic fan but it's an amazing experience.
"Last summer we had our summer school where Jose sent over four academy coaches and the level of coaching that our kids got from those four coaches was top notch and one of the best I've seen.
"This partnership goes back to 2017 and it just seems to keep on growing and the coaches coming over seem to be getting better and better so we just want to maintain that. Jose also made the trip to Ireland and did a class for coaches for a couple of hours about methodology and how to set up your session, what you focus on and how you break it down percentage wise and it was excellent. "So long may this continue. Hopefully we can continue to do these things on a yearly basis.
"I went over to the Celtic coaches convention in 2019 and you get to walk around Lennoxtown, you're learning about their science department, their academy structures, how they set up and run things. IT's a real geniune insight about Celtic and a real openness as regards how the club run everything. They tell you about their experiences and for me as a coach and someone who runs Don Bosco's Football Club is excellent.
"We're taking on board everything and how they are developing us and seeing the academy coaches doing. At the summer camps our coaches stand and watch everything that's going on and it's a great experience for the kids but the knowledge picked up by our coaches is excellent. It has a really positive impact at the club."