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Sweet Sixteen

COLERAINE U16’s are toasting league success after finishing in top position in the NIFL Academy League…

Using the independently recommended mathematical model across all senior divisions within the NIFL pyramid; the curtailed final positions of the U16 League saw the Bannsiders crowned champions with an average PPG of 2.63.

Out of the 19 matches played by the Stripes – they won 16, drew twice and were only beaten on one occasion.

Speaking to, boss Marty Smith spoke of his delight for the players as their hard work paid off.

“I’m obviously over the moon but I’m more delighted for the players as they deserved it,” he said.

“I was praying the season wasn’t declared null and void as we were so far clear in the table and it was only a matter of time before we were crowned champions.

“Our hard work in pre-season filtered into the new campaign and after drawing our opening game against Dungannon Swifts, we won 16 out of the next 18 fixtures.

“We also won the most games, lost the least amount of games, we were the top goalscorers and conceded the least amount of goals in the division.

“The other coaches and I demand that the players are as fit as possible, work hard for each other and strive to the best players that they can be.

“I would like to thank my coaches; Fergal, Ronnie and Billy for their commitment and support, as well as the players and their parents.”

Despite not being able to celebrate the triumph on the pitch, Marty is hopeful that the players will get their recognition in the coming weeks.

“We’ve been told that NIFL will visit with the trophy and give us medals for the players,” he added.

“Hopefully, if legislation allows us, we plan to get the players together to receive their medals and get a photograph as it’s a great achievement for the club.

“It was definitely disappointing that we couldn’t win the trophy on the pitch, but you have to realise that there’s a pandemic going on and there’s certainly more to life than football.”

So, can we expect to see a few of that under-16 side feature in the first-team set-up in a few years time?

“This year’s under 16’s will now move up to the under-18 league a year early under a new coach, but they are more than good enough to compete,” Marty concluded.

“I know Oran Kearney has spoken to this group and watched them train on a few occasions, with Jay Riley making his senior debut in the North-West Cup.

“I have no doubts that a few of the boys will play at Irish League level.”