Ards FC Academy develop before winning
Ards FC Academy was formed in 1992 as Ards Youth and began like most clubs with one team competing in the
local league, in 1994 they were one of the first clubs to cater for 5 – 10 year olds with the creation of the
“Diddymen”. In 2001 teams entered Europe for the first time competing in the Valhaus Cup in Holland and all
three teams came home “Champions”. 2001 was also the year the club gained Junior Clubmark status from the
NI Sports Council.
Diddymen became Dynamos in 2005 to reflect the energy of the children and the club continued to grow until
2009 when it had 11 competitive teams and 4 mini soccer teams providing soccer coaching for approximately
280 boys and girls from the ages of 6 up to 16 years of age.
Ards FC Academy went on line with the creation of a club website in 2005 another innovative step from a very
progressive club, a Club Handbook was introduced in 2009 including a Zero Tolerance Policy to ensure that
everyone is able to enjoy the games without abuse of any sort especially referees who have a right to enjoy their
The club has many past players competing in the Irish League and were delighted when David Morgan and
Conor Brennan secured opportunities with Nottingham Forest and Leicester City in 2009. This cross channel path
was next taken by three boys from Johnny Doherty’s very successful U14 side when, Ruari Croskery went to
Man Utd, George Gray went to Preston NE and Josh Doherty went to Watford.
In 2010 a decision was taken to build on this and redefine the club by addressing the development of coaches
and players by appointing a head coach with the brief to put in place a structure to generate and develop our
young players. Development was placed firmly ahead of “win at all costs” and the club was delighted to take
advantage of Paul Kirks availability and appoint him as their head coach. Paul as most football people will know
is a PRO Licence holder and has extensive experience as a player and manager at Irish League level.
He was succeeded in 2013 by Stuart Harvey another PRO Licence coach whose connection with Burnley FC led
to him being appointed as their head of talent ID and recruitment at their academy last year. Stuart put in place a
development program for all ages and a player pathway for all to see where their development would take them.
He was also very active in growing the bond between the Academy and the senior sides and encouraging the
reserve team manager to give Academy players the opportunity to play. Steven Gordon and Stuart Muldrew
became the first players to graduate all the way and play for the Ards FC first team having started out as Dynamos.
Stuart Harvey's ability was recognised in 2015 by Burnley who recruited him for their Academy, he was
succeeded by Colin and Alan Nixon for two years then Matthew Tipton had the post for a few months.
The current Academy Director is Norman Kelly, who has come in at a good time as the latest Academy graduates
Jonah Heron at 16 and Jourdan Shearer at 17 make their first team debuts under Warren Feeney. Warrens belief
in the Academy will allow more young players their opportunity for sure.
The future of the club looks bright, if you would like to find out more contact details are on the website