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Ross County to host Highland Academy Festival to showcase best teenage footballing talent across the Highlands and Islands in Dingwall

By Andrew Henderson

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Ross County will this summer be hosting a Highland Academy Festival featuring teams from right across the Highlands and Islands.

It is the first time in years that such a tournament has taken place, with teams set to participate in the two-day event at the Highland Football Academy including Under-14 and Under-16 sides from Ross County, Orkney, Caithness United, Elgin City, Shetland, Clachnacuddin and Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

The event, which has been put together by Ross County Football Club, is aimed at showcasing the best the Highlands has to offer at both age groups and exhibiting some of the exciting young talents from both across the mainland and islands.

Ross County's academy manager, Gordon Duff, has been driving this project. Picture: Ken Macpherson
Ross County's academy manager, Gordon Duff, has been driving this project. Picture: Ken Macpherson

Teams will arrive for the first round of matches on the evening of Friday, July 1 evening and the festival will conclude the next day.

The Staggies have a strong recent history when it comes to developing young talent. In the last few years, former first team manager Stuart Kettlewell led the club's under-20s squad to the SPFL Development League title, and since then the likes of Tom Grivosti, Ross Munro, Josh Reid, Adam Mackinnon and Matthew Wright have all broken into the first team from the academy set-up.

Reid and Wright in particular have made headlines, with the former establishing himself as the first choice left back at just 18 years old before earning a move to Coventry City, while Wright scored a dramatic 95th minute equaliser against Rangers in the Premiership earlier this year.

Munro, too, has impressed in spells, with his medal haul including a Challenge Cup and Championship with County, and a League One crown while on loan at Raith Rovers.

County will now hope the next generation of first team stars will be on show at the festival, which should showcase the best young talent around in the Highlands and Islands.

Ross County academy manager, Gordon Duff has said: “It’s fantastic to be hosting a festival that brings together so many clubs from across the region. We have seen over the years the strength of youth football in the Highlands and Islands and the pathways that can be created into professional football.

“You just need to look at the past 12 months and we here at Ross County we have had Josh Reid play in our first team who was a Dingwall boy, and his performances in the first team here led to his move to Coventry City.

"We have also had Matthew Wright playing in the first team last season and scoring against Rangers with Adam Mackinnon and Ross Munro also featuring in the first team for Ross County.

"That is coupled with the successes at youth levels for all of the other clubs involved too. Hopefully this festival will see that next group of talented youngsters on display.

“We have designed the festival to showcase some of the talent that each club has at the two age groups, and it will be a really good 48 hours for the different clubs.

"I would like to thank the clubs for their participation and partnership in arranging the festival as well as the staff here who will be running the event alongside myself. Thanks, must also go to the Highland Football Academy and their staff for making the venue available.”

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