Following a slow start, there were plenty of positives to take from a NIFL Premiership Development League campaign which has just finished for Keith O’Hara’s Larne Olympic side.
Their season got underway in August 2022 and it was a tough start as the young Inver Reds struggled to find any sort of form out of the blocks, losing their first eight games of the season. It took until October for the Olympic side to pick up their first victory of the campaign, a 6-0 win over Newry at Inver Park.
An unbeaten run in December and just one defeat in the month of January showed encouraging signs of the team starting to gel and develop as the season progressed.
The good run of form continued for the team into February and March, with O’Hara’s side going undefeated in those two months as they moved their way up the table and continued to progress.
April and May brought around some mixed results for the side as the season came to an end, with draws against Portadown and Glenavon partnered with defeats to Coleraine and Carrick Rangers. The Olympic side finished the season in mid-table in 6th place.
In terms of player development, scholarship athletes Jack Hastings, Sean Brown, Ben Walker, and Caolan Donnelly all made appearances for Tiernan Lynch’s first team squad in competitions such as the Danske Bank Premiership, Bet McLean League Cup and the Co. Antrim Shield. Throughout the season, many of the players from the NIFL U18s squad also played regularly for the Olympic side, gaining vital experience on their professional journey.
International appearances were also on the rise for our Olympic players throughout the campaign. Jack Hastings was called into the Northern Ireland U17s squad for their Euro Elite Round qualifiers, Sean Brown was called up to the Northern Ireland U19s squad for their Euro qualifiers, Kye Livingstone was called upon for Gibraltar U21s squad for their friendly against Liechtenstein and Odhran McCart, Caolan Donnelly, Ben Walker, Sean Brown, Jack Hastings and Rian Brown were called into the Northern Ireland U18s Schoolboys squad for the Centenary Shield.
Harrison Knight travelled to the USA with Steven Gerrard Academy to participate in the prestigious Dallas Cup, where he excelled and finished the tournament as one of his side’s top goalscorers as they bowed out at the semi-final stage.
Reflecting on the campaign, Head Coach Keith O’Hara said:
“Overall, this season has had lots of positives.
“After a slow start to the season, eventually we got up and running and went on a great run of form. During the course of the campaign, the players showed great resilience and learning and they started to keep clean sheets and produce some great performances.
“We have been delighted with the progress that the Scholarship Programme has made both on and off the pitch. On the pitch, we have had many success stories including first-team debuts and appearances, international recognition and players out on loan gaining valuable experience. All of this is great to see along with the many benefits that the full-time environment brings.
“I now look forward to the coming season.”