Ben leads Ulstermen to victory over Russia

Ben Mitchell. INLM34-108gc
Ben Mitchell. INLM34-108gc

Lurgan lad Ben Mitchell took to the field for Northern Ireland’s game against Russia at the second time of asking.

Ben’s appearance as mascot at the game was worth the wait, with the Ulstermen winning 1-0 in the rescheduled fixture after the match had been called off back on March 22.

As reported in the ‘MAIL’ in March, Ben and his great grandfather shared in bizarre piece of international football trivia because of the postponement.

March’s fixture was the first match at Windsor Park to be cancelled since 1957 when a World Cup Qualifier against Italy was ‘put off’ when the man who was set to referee the game ended up fog-bound in London.

Rather than abandon the match completely, it was played as a friendly with a well-known Lurgan man stepping in to referee. That man was Tommy Mitchell - Ben’s great grandfather.

56 years on, at the second time of asking, Ben took to the field wearing a Russian shirt, led by Blackpool and former Manchester United defender Craig Cathcart.

Ben said he traded high-fives with a lot of people in the tunnel though it wasn’t until he was watching a replay of the match with his dad that they discovered one of the people he’d high-fived was former England coach Fabio Capello.

The King’s Park pupil said: “It was great to walk out with the players. It was a good match, but I still prefer rugby.”

Ben took part in Ulster Rugby training sessions at Pollock Park last week and is due to play for the P5 team during the coming season.

The opportunity to walk out as a Player Escort was provided through McDonald’s grassroots football website, McDonald’s KickStart, where users can access once-in-a lifetime opportunities such as walking out as Player Escorts. The website also allows local clubs to secure funding for development projects and gain useful information on coaching or running a club.

Speaking about this opportunity local McDonald’s franchisee Paul Connan said: “McDonald’s operates very much as part of the local community in Lurgan and I’m delighted that Ben won this opportunity to walk out as a McDonald’s Player Escort on a night that produced a fantastic result for the team.”

McDonald’s Community Partnership with the Irish FA is delivering a lasting legacy for grassroots football through coach creation and education, a new Club Accreditation Scheme, through Small Sided Games Centres and through the McDonald’s Irish FA Community Awards which take place next month.

To nominate someone for the McDonald’s Irish FA Community Awards do so at www.mcdonalds.co.uk/KickStart