Two young footballers from East Antrim have been hailed by Northern Ireland manager, Michael O’Neill, as having the potential to be top players.

Riley Deans of the Greenisland 2011 team and George Alexander of the Whitehead Eagles Junior Academy 2012 team won a penalty shoot-out which took place at the SPAR Fortfield store in Carrickfergus under the professional eye of O’Neill.

The occasion was part of a Customer Appreciation Event run by SPAR Fortfield for their shoppers, which included lots of Barista Bar Café sampling, tasting SPAR’s new Enjoy Local bakery range as well as ice cream treats from Dale Farm keeping everyone chilled.

The penalty shootout was in association with Ginsters, an official partner of the Irish FA, and store manager Adrian Mellon said it was a real highlight of the day for the young players from Greenisland and Whitehead.

“It was a pleasure to be able to invite players from both teams along to show off their skills to Michael O’Neill,” he said.

“We’ve had a fantastic week celebrating our community, who we’ve been getting to know since we opened last December. We’ve no doubt some of our young players have even been scouted to be the next generation of Northern Ireland players,” he added.

Michael O’Neill said: “It was brilliant to meet some young players and football fans from the Carrickfergus and wider East Antrim area and we’re always happy to support our commercial partners who have a vital role to play in the future of football in Northern Ireland.”

Mike Smith, Ginsters Marketing Director, continued: “We are passionate about football and are delighted to be an official partner of the Irish FA – allowing us to spread our love for the beautiful game in Northern Ireland. As official savoury pastry partner we’re proud to be associated with a team and manager that so evidently share our values of being honest, down to earth and dedicated.”

SPAR Fortfield opened in December 2018 as a brand-new store concept for owners Henderson Retail, part of the family-run Henderson Group, based in Mallusk.

The store is a state-of-the-art food-to-go destination, offering unique services from Henderson’s Daily Deli, including noodles and salad stations, as well as big brand favourites such as Burger King and Subway. It houses the only Barista Bar Café in Northern Ireland, which provides a sit-in area to enjoy the popular retail coffee brand alongside their delicious treats and traybakes.

Adrian explained their unique community store-café format has been a welcome addition to the community: “Our local shoppers are popping in for their lunch and dinner essentials but also taking the time to enjoy a coffee catch-up with friends and family at the Barista Bar Café. We provide a sanctuary and essentials – all under one roof!”