THE story of a perfect football season by Celtic Club (Lurgan No 1) has one special nine-year-old boy at the heart of the 22-game winning streak.
And Jay Beatty’s enthusiasm for the game has helped to raise awareness of Down’s syndrome thanks to his popularity around the Mid-Ulster Football League scene.
Jay’s role as the team’s number one fan has provided the players with inspiration on the path to maximum points in Division Three and a trophy double following Beckett Cup glory.
His contribution as club mascot covers everything from joining in the pre-match team huddle to offering a pep talk ahead of big games.
“A special award was given to Jay during our prize ceremony in recognition of how much they value his support,” said Jay’s father, Martin. “I am the football chairman and Jay has been coming with me to games over the past few seasons.
“The players actually have ‘Jay’ printed on the back of the kit so that shows just how much they love having him around.
“We actually consider his passion for the club as a big reason behind Jay’s progress.
“Mixing with everyone at the games and back in the club has really helped him come on, with the speech therapists and doctors amazed by his development since he started going to the football.”
In fact, his commitment to the club has now extended to a global audience thanks to a memorable video clip recorded for the team’s Facebook page on Saturday.
“We played our final game against Donaghmore and the highlight for many was Jay’s substitute appearance,” said Martin. “Everyone agreed to let him come on and when he dribbled up the pitch and scored a goal the look on his face was something really special.
“The footage has attracted thousands of views on Facebook.
“Other clubs often ask about Jay and love to see him at the games, with those connections helping to raise awareness of Down’s syndrome.”
Visit www.lurganmail.co.uk to watch Jay’s big moment and www.downsandproud.com for more on the Lurgan-based Down’s syndrome group.