Junior players from two football clubs have sampled big-match experience in England.

Douglas Athletic FC Juniors’ team took part in the UK International Cup 2022, while youngsters from Ayre United AFC went on tour to finish the football season.

The International Cup gives young footballers from around the British Isles the opportunity to sample world-class facilities, with the event taking place at St George’s Park National Football Centre in Staffordshire, the training base of the England national team.

The Steam Packet helped with the cost of ferry travel for Douglas Athletics’ junior team and included discounted breakfasts ahead of their match.

Lee Shields from Douglas Athletic said: ‘We were over the moon to have secured a debut place for our juniors’ squad at this prestigious event.

‘Grassroots football has faced many different challenges because of the pandemic, but our young players have remained committed and dedicated to the sport throughout.

‘This was an incredible opportunity for the boys and just reward for all their hard work – they were very excited to be playing on the same pitches that some of their heroes do. The level of competition was high, but it was great to compete against teams from across the UK.’

Junior players from Ayre United’s under-12s and under-eights teams travelled to Liverpool to play against several teams from the Wirral and Cheshire.

The Steam Packet supported the UK tour by subsidising ferry fares to and from Liverpool for 30 players.

Tracey Mooney from Ayre United said: ‘This was our first full football season since Covid, so this was a great way to finish things off.

‘Our young players have shown great commitment to their training and matches, and the opportunity to play off-island teams has helped to develop their confidence and hone their football skills further. I’d also like to thank the various volunteers and fundraisers that have helped us raise hundreds of pounds worth of funds which made this trip possible.’

Brian Thomson, managing director at the Steam Packet, said: ‘We were delighted to be able to support both Douglas Athletic and Ayre United with their travel and I’m sure the youngsters had a wonderful experience, and what a way to round off a long season! It was well-deserved after all the hard work they have put in.’