Glentoran FC

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Farley siblings make history

Sun, 19/05/2024 - 17:08

This article by Graham Luney was first published in the Belfast Telegraph

We are familiar with Glentoran supporting families throughout the years, but the Farleys from Ballyhalbert are now unique.

The Glens have confirmed that Callan and Kirsten are the first brother and sister to represent the east Belfast club at senior level. Kirsten made her debut against Comber Rec Ladies on May 13 following Callan’s first appearance for the senior men’s team against Crusaders in the Premiership clash on April 27. Their history-making exploits have delighted mum and dad Kelly and Kyle as well as younger sister Evie, who plays for 1st Bangor. And Kirsten even marked the special moment in style by scoring while making her Glentoran bow.There is some irony in this proud story as well, as their grandfathers Stephen and Robert played for Linfield.

The two teenagers may have different personalities, but what unites them is their pride at playing for Glentoran, their hunger to enhance their football careers and their support for one another, while maintaining a healthy competitive edge. With Callan only a year older, their bond is close, and their shared passion of football is strong. Callan, who is 18-years-old, joined the Glens when he was 12 and signed a professional deal in the summer of 2023.He captained the Seconds side and was a regular presence in the defence before earning his debut against Crusaders and also featuring in the European Play-off semi-final against Coleraine. Kirsten (17) linked up with the Glens when she was 14 and is also part of the Northern Ireland Under-19 set-up.

Plenty of brothers have played for Glentoran – how many can you name? I’ll revisit that later, but the Farleys have made their own history.

“When you think about it, it is crazy,” said Callan. “It never crossed my mind something like this could happen, but it’s amazing. It’s funny because my grandas Stephen and Robert played for Linfield. I came earlier to the Glens, and there wasn’t that tradition within the family, but now, it’s taken off, and even our mum is buying into it despite not being a big football fan. Mum and dad have been very supportive, and dad has always been passionate about the game. He played for Ards Rangers before an injury, and he then went into coaching. I was a slow starter and didn’t start playing until I was seven. He got me into it and took me right through until I joined the Glens.

I have loved every minute of being at Glentoran. A change of position has helped me. I came to the Glens as a midfielder but moved to centre-back. Then, I switched back into midfield, and I think it suits my style of play. I would compare myself to a Roy Keane-style of player, a box-to-box performer who can never stop running and be hard in the tackle, but I can also play. It’s  been some journey. It was a lovely moment to make my debut against Crusaders in front of a good crowd. It was a nice way to break myself in, as the Coleraine Play-Off came after that.”

Kirsten also loves life at the Glens and is hungry to take her game to the next level."I’ve really enjoyed it. I came from a boys’ team at Ards Academy, and it’s a totally different environment with the girls. The coaches have been very welcoming, and it’s unreal the joy I feel when playing for the club. I saw the social media post about us making history, and it’s something you never could have imagined. To do it with your brother who you are always competing against is very nice.

From a young age, we have always been competitive, but at the same time, Callan is an inspiration to me, and when I see him doing well, then I want to be like him. We have a close bond and have grown up together. I’ve been playing since I was four, and dad encouraged us and took us to summer camps. Our parents run around the world for us. Without them, we would not have gone this far. I was fortunate to score on my debut, and I never expected it to happen. I just take things as they come, but if you have determination and drive and an opportunity is presented to you, you take it. The international recognition is nice, too, and the women’s game is getting stronger.”

Plenty of brothers have featured for the Glens – among them Rab, Ron and Paul McCreery, Rory and Jay Donnelly, Ciaran and Michael O’Connor, Billy and John Caskey, Colin and Alan Nixon, Dennis and Albert Matthews. But the Farley brother/sister chapter has captured the attention of many, including senior bosses Declan Devine and Kim Turner.

Glentoran manager Devine says the progress of both Callan and Kirsten reflect the positive work going on at Academy level: "The success of Callan and Kirsten says so much about the Glentoran Boys and Girls Academies and the importance they have to the future of the club,” said Devine. I’d watched Callan a few times with the Seconds after coming back to the club and was confident in his ability to step up with a few of his team-mates to get their first experience at senior level. Callan did well enough to keep his place at right-back for the Play-Off Semi-Final, and he was one of the positives we were able to take from that night. I am looking forward to seeing how Callan and Kirsten progress over the next few seasons.”

Glentoran Women coach Kim Turner is excited to see how the Farley siblings kick on in their football careers: "It’s brilliant. Kirsten has been with the Academy since she was very young, and I think Callan has as well,” said the former Manchester City player and Northern Ireland international. With the two of them coming through the Academy system and the Scholars, which is our education programme into the NIFL reserve squad, and finally making their debuts is fantastic. I think it’s great for them and the club. Kirsten scored on her debut, which was nice.

Kirsten is actually a bit of an old school centre-half, something that the women’s game has been missing. She is big, strong, great in the air and with one-on-ones. She likes to get forward, has the right mentality and loves playing for Glentoran. Kirsten is also in the Northern Ireland Under-19s, NIFL reserve squad, and for players, there is a jump from the reserve to senior team. I’ve had plenty of conversations with her about her developing into a first-team player, and she has more to learn, but the opportunity is there for her to grasp.Her dad Kyle has come in and is coaching with the NIFL Under-19s team, and we work together.”

And, of course, the Farley football story is only just beginning with more chapters to come.

“Dad says being history makers for one or two games is amazing, but can you take it to 10 games, then 100 games?” said Callan. "Hopefully, both our careers take off, either with the Glens or even bigger clubs across the water. With the full-time training, the younger players should be better prepared to take an opportunity. The women’s game is also flying, and Kirsten is at the perfect club.”

With their senior breakthroughs now part of the club’s history, the Ashfield Glentoran Academy students can focus on carving out impressive careers in the game.

“We’ve both got the Farley blood, that touch of aggression in our game,” says Callan "I think we are different characters, but our drive and desire to succeed is the same. We are very supportive of each other, but we might not say it while we are arguing about who is better! But we will back each other to the hilt.”

Versatile Kirsten adds: “Playing with the boys helped me to become stronger and quicker. You think you have a point to prove as well, which gives you more fire to do well. You look up to senior players and think, ‘I want to be like that'. I’m always motivated to be better while enjoying football. I want to make it in the game, and I think myself and Callan have that mentality. America could be a good move for me, or playing across the water could be another dream.”

The Glentoran history-makers are driving each other on to success.