Coagh United Youth is the newly revamped football development programme for Coagh United F.C. launching in August 2022.
Situated in Coagh village, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland; Coagh United F.C. was founded in 1970. The club's first team currently play in the Ballymena & District Intermediate League, with their home ground, Hagan Park, located on Ballinderry Bridge Road, Coagh. The Youth programme will be facilitated at Coagh Sports Centre, a purpose-built training facility, a stone's throw from the first team pitch.
The Youth programme has garnered great support from the local community and currently has registrations of interest for over 125 kids in the U6 - U12 age brackets, a fifth of whom are girls. At present we are in the process of also rolling out our programme provision to players aged 12-17.
Pictured above: Coagh United Youth players, Meadowbank Sports Arena, Magherafelt, Northern Ireland, April 2016.
The programme itself will importantly offer all kids in the area not only an opportunity to come together and participate in sport but also a development pathway for players who have the desire to progress to first team football. With our plans for 2022-'23, moving forward, incorporating for the first time a provision for girls' participation.
The commencement of this Youth programme in 2022 will herald a concerted attempt by the club to not only re-engage with its youth demographic but, through the involvement of volunteers and interaction with parents and guardians, place Coagh United F.C. again at the heart of the local community; giving its young people, and their support networks, a collective platform from which to thrive.
Whilst the new initiative may re-imagine the future direction of this work it builds upon successful forerunners; with current first team manager Mervyn Pattison, and first team lead coach Mark McMenemy, having both progressed through the club's inaugural Youth programme back in 1987 to serve the club as first team players and now head up their management staff. Examples of how footballing activity at a young age, in the correct environment, can manifest a lifelong participation and love of the sport.
Pictured above: Black & white picture; Coagh United Youth's inaugural year award winners 1987; (back left) Mark McMenemy, current first team coach, (front right) Mervyn Pattison, current first team manager. Colour picture; Mervyn, Mark, support staff & squad celebrate their McReynolds Cup triumph 2022.
The same is true for current first team players Aaron Campbell, Stefan Hogshaw, Matthew Kempton, David Nelson, Neal Smyth, Zach Ferson and Ryan McMenemy, who have all progressed through the former youth system; Ryan this season representing Northern Ireland Futsal team.
Pictured above: (left) Current first team players Ryan McMenemy and Zach Ferson (2013/14) winners of a 2-a-side Cage Soccer tournament. (right) Ryan McMeneny representing Northern Ireland at Futsal.
Undoubtedly though Coagh United (Youth)'s most famous son is Stuart Dallas who plays for Northern Ireland and also Leeds United in English Premier League. Stuart is a super role model to all kids growing up in the Coagh locality and an inspiration that with talent, hard work and dedication anything is possible.
Pictured above: Black & white picture; Stuart Dallas receiving Coagh United Youth's (U17) Top Goalscorer award. Colour picture: Stuart playing for Coagh United.
It is success stories like this that inspires the club to take this opportunity to build back stronger so other children, when given the opportunity, can write their own sporting stories: a lifetime of fun, friends and football.
It is the club's aspiration that the relaunch of this Youth programme will further develop the work that was begun, pre-Covid, 2018 to 2020, when the club established the community sport programme 'Sport Against Segregation', working alongside Ballinderry Shamrocks G.A.A., aimed at helping Coagh and its surrounding local communities to overcome barriers of religious segregation and misconceptions. Coagh United F.C. is a progressive club and has a strong desire to move forward in a positive manner and be a role model to inspire positive changes within our local communities, which we recognise can be supported through sporting integration and participation.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic decimated Coagh United's youth programme which prior to the initial lockdown of March 2020 had 40-50 children of primary school age in attendance. The result being that all youth activity at the club stopped and never restarted.
The club had always intended to reinstate its Youth pathway however lack of manpower, with the core volunteer coaching support disbanded, coupled with ensuring the first team was stable as the club emerged from the pandemic meant that the proper planning for this was parked temporarily. However we are delighted to say that we are now in a position to return stronger than ever with a Youth programme potentially 3-4 times larger than pre-pandemic.
The significance of this cannot be underestimated given the vital role access again to structured sport will play in helping these kids, especially from rural communities, integrate once more into social settings. Helping overcome many of the negative social and emotional issues that have become associated with pandemic living: such as loneliness, lack of integration, motivation and exercise.
Facilitating an environment via sport that offers psychological safety and social support will be a key contributor in helping mitigate many of the challenges children, parents, coaches and volunteers have all been exposed to over this difficult period; Covid-19 having impacted all our lives, especially in such a small, village community where barriers to accessing sporting facilities already exist.
Coagh United Youth is seeking to raise £10,000.00; the majority of the money (around £8,000) will be used to purchase all the football equipment required to facilitate our training programme for players aged 5 to 17. These items include the various sized balls, ball pumps, various sized goals, cones/markers, mannequins, bibs, medical bags; everything that will be required to create the safest and best training environment for our young people.
The remainder of the money will be offset to (re)train our coaching volunteers to ensure the essential safeguarding, and recommended IFA, standards.
So your pledges will be investing in providing coaches not only with necessary practice equipment but also further education to help provide our kids with the best environment for learning, equipping them with the skills, physically and emotionally they will need for their future, not just for football.
There are four simple ways to help us reach our target, and make this project a reality.
1. Make a pledge. Don’t delay if you’re going to support us because momentum is key to our success!
2. Spread the word. Share our project on your social media pages and tell the world to get behind us! The more people we reach, the more support we will get.
3. Offer rewards. Get involved if you are a local business by donating things we can offer to our supporters. We will give you a shout out!
4. Create a fundraiser of your own. Use the button on our page to get started. Setting up your own page only takes a few minutes and you won’t need any bank details. Just a fun idea!