Wednesday 14 August 2013
Ahead of their first match back in the Barclays Premier League, when they face Tottenham Hotspur at Selhurst Park on 18 August, Crystal Palace have been active throughout Ireland this summer.
After Ian Holloway's Palace side beat Waterford United 4-0 in the Republic of Ireland in the final stages of their pre-season campaign, the Crystal Palace FC Foundation delivered football coaching and coach development sessions in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
"The Belfast youth's attitude to learning is first-class"
In partnership with grassroots community sports delivery specialists Active Communities Network, the sessions took place at the Hammer Leisure Centre on Shankill Road and the Bunscoil An Tsleibhe Dhuibh Primary School in the Ballymurphy Estate.
The links between Palace and Ireland can be traced a long way back and in recent years many Palace players have represented the national sides at various levels including Iain Dowie, Ray Houghton, Steve Staunton and Clinton Morrison alongside present players Patrick McCarthy and Damien Delaney.
Over the course of the week in the north more than 100 local young people attended the sessions delivered by Pete Bethell, Crystal Palace U14-U17 head development coach and Crystal Palace FC Foundation community coach Mark Smith, alongside director of sports development at the Foundation, Gary Mulcahey.
"The event has been brilliant and everyone has been so friendly and welcoming," Mulcahey said. "The players we have coached have been very committed, enthusiastic and have listened to us at all times. Their attitude to learning is first-class."
After the local youngsters were put through their paces the Palace coaches turned their hand to "coaching the coaches" at the end of the week with a special invite-only event session for locals involved with the grassroots game to help improve the legacy from their visit.
All participants received a Palace training shirt or lunchbox and some even mastered the famous Palace "We Love You" football chant.
The week also had a special "Family Fun Day" in partnership with the local Upper Springfield Integrated Partnership, where local families came together to participate in and learn about healthy living. They were also treated to a surprise visit by the Junior Minister from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Jennifer McCann MLA, who was full of praise for the elite coaching that young people in Belfast received.
"I was delighted to meet the Crystal Palace coaches and I would also like to pass on my praise for the ongoing work that Active Communities Network does in the surrounding areas," McCann said. "As Junior Minister responsible for children, young people and building united communities, I see this work as essential in bringing young people together through the positive medium of sport.
"This work is essential in bringing young people together through the positive medium of sport"
Jennifer McCann MLA
"The communities here see the value of sport to engage young people and I look forward to forging closer links with both Crystal Palace F.C. and Active Communities Network in the future."
The Crystal Palace F.C. coaches were even given some special seeds from the Upper Springfield Integrated Partnership Community Garden to take back to SE25 and plant. The garden aims to introduce local produce and gardening knowledge into the local community in conjunction with sports sessions to promote healthy living.
"Healthy living is a big part of what we do here and it was brilliant to see over 100 young people benefit from the brilliant Crystal Palace F.C. coaching in Ballymurphy and Shankill," Jim Donnelly, Programme Manager for Active Communities Network in Belfast, said. "I look forward to the future and developing the partnership with Palace in Belfast and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the individual coaches and young people that made the week so successful.
"We hope to visit Selhurst Park soon and we wish the Eagles all the best for their new Premier League campaign."