Two of the longest established football clubs in West Belfast, St Luke's and Celtic Boys, have announced a major collaboration which they envisage will provide huge benefits for the children, teenagers and young people of the Twinbrook, Poleglass and Lagmore areas.
The announcement follows on from extensive exploratory meetings between the two clubs culminating in a comprehensive agreement which will bring over 400 young people and almost 100 community volunteers under the umbrella of the new arrangements.
Both clubs are keen to maintain their own identity whilst at the same time building a strong and deepening relationship, bringing mutual benefits to both clubs in areas of coaching, staff resources, facilities and cost reductions.
The clubs forsee great benefit to the local area and beyond in terms of childrens’ football.
Celtic Boys currently provide teams from U6 up to U16 age groups. This will continue into the future. However, with the recent successful launch of St Luke’s U17 team, there is now just a one year age gap which the two clubs will work to close over the next season.
This will then provide the children and teenagers of the local area a seamless transition from age six to 36, and then their own children, back round again, creating a strong identity and sense of belonging within their own community.
"We're delighted to announce that Celtic Boys and St Luke's FC are forming a partnerships," a spokesperson said.
"After several meetings, messages, and calls discussing our shared vision and plans, it's become clear that this partnership is a match made in heaven.
"Both clubs have a rich history of providing football in the heart of West Belfast: Celtic Boys at junior level and St Luke's at senior.
"United, we can take young aspiring footballers from the tender age of five all the way up until they hang up their boots on an unforgettable journey through the beautiful game we all love.
"With St Luke's pioneering a successful U17 age group and Celtic Boys continued triumph in producing footballers up to U16, this partnership ensures a smooth transition from junior football at Celtic Boys towards a future at senior football with St Luke's.
"In the end, it's not just about football, but about building a stringer community, moving forward in unison onto an exciting path towards a shared bright future."