Gary Hamilton enthused by Glenavon’s emerging crop of young stars

Glenavon celebrate Mark Patton's goal at the Oval
Glenavon celebrate Mark Patton's goal at the Oval

Glenavon player/boss Gary Hamilton admits he faces a selection headache ahead of this week’s Irish Cup semi-final.

With that in mind, shrewd Hamilton reshuffled his pack for the Premiership clash against Glentoran at the Oval, introducing a number of his budding teenagers.

Rookie 18-year-old goalkeeper Sean McIlhone was given the nod along with, Mark Sykes, a Northern Ireland Under-18 international, Sammy McIlveen (19), Owen McKeown (16), Andrew Hoey (17) and James Singleton (18).

They passed the test with flying colours. In fact, they made it a totally miserable afternoon for Eddie Patterson’s Glentoran, whose dreams of European football went down the pan with this result.

The kids turned in a scintillating performance, especially McKeown and Hoey, who both grabbed their first goals for the Lurgan Blues after being introduced to the action in the second half.

The impressive Tiarnan Mulvenna shot the visitors ahead from the penalty spot after he was tripped inside the box by Mark Clarke.

Mark Patton then outpaced the Glentoran defence to roll home the second before the teenage tearaways struck in the last 10 minutes.

“We really could have won by six or seven,” purred Hamilton.

“The kids were great. We’ve improved our youth team and reserve team and we are now reaping the benefits.

“Too many clubs are afraid to give kids their chance – that’s not the case at our football club. There will probably be a few changes for next week’s cup semi-final, but they certainly have given me a selection headache.

“If they are not in the team the incentive for them is to be in the 16 players named for the game. The killer decision for me is whittling the squad to 16.

“With hand on heart, there are 22 players that deserve to be there. It’s going to be a really difficult job for me. I’ll have to make the call, but some people will not like it – that’s football.”

After their antics at the Oval, Hamilton soon brought his young charges down to earth

He added: “I’ve given them a pat on the pack, but told them, when they go back to the reserves they have to keep performing at that level.

“They will not be allowed to get above their station at this club. I told then they needn’t think they are first team players.”

Meanwhile, Glentoran manager Patterson warned his players are now playing for the futures over the next four games.

“It was absolutely embarrassing,” he said. “Forget about the youngsters in the side, for senior pros to put in a performance like that is simply embarrassing.

“If they thought they were going to walk away with the points after seeing the team that Glenavon put out, that’s not the professional attitude I require at this club.”