Northern Ireland

FA Cup final: NI students win green-keeping prize

Four green-keeping students from Greenmount Agricultural College will play a role on the pitch at Wembly
Image caption Four green-keeping students from Greenmount Agricultural College will play a role on the pitch at Wembley

Being on the pitch during a Wembley final is a dream-come-true for just a few elite footballers.

But for four green-keeping students from Greenmount Agricultural College in Antrim, it's become a reality - sort of.

As the whistle blows at the start of Saturday's FA Cup final, they won't be playing on the pitch - but they'll have worked on it.

And while the players regroup in the dressing room at half time, the Greenmount students will be making running repairs to the grass to keep the stars safe.

Image caption Gavin White, pictured with Jon Crawford, will be repairing divots with forks during the FA Cup Final's half time

It's all down to their tutor who entered them as a team in a professional green-keeping skills competition, which they won.

"The prize is an all-expenses trip to Wembley to the FA Cup final to see how exactly the pitch is maintained and how it's looked after and what goes into the preparations for a final," said Gavin White, who is a Horticulture foundation degree student.

And as first year Sports Turf student Michael Dundee explained, they will also get to take over the pitch at half-time and after the match.

"At half-time we'll go out with the forks to repair the divots and then again help the team to repair the pitch and clear up the pitch ready for the play-off games on Sunday," he said.

The four students are all at different stages of learning, but they pulled together for the opportunity to brush shoulders with the likes of Cech, Costa, Sanchez and Ozil.

For Level-3 Sports Turf student John Kennedy, it's a professional dream.

"It's a fantastic opportunity to see a stadium maintained at such a high standard," he said.

But for football fan and Level Three ground-keeping student Jon Crawford, it's the trip of a lifetime.

Image copyright All Sport/Getty Images
Image caption The students will work alongside the Wembley groundskeeping team

"It's pretty exciting that it's Chelsea in the final, being a massive Chelsea fan," he said.

"After such a good season it's nice to be able to see them and especially to go to Wembley to do it as well."

He will also be hoping to grab a little taste of the limelight for himself.

"I'll just go out on the pitch and maybe swing my arms about so people can see me on TV or something," he laughed.

But there'll be no time for celebrating at the end of the match.

The four will be hard at it with the Wembley ground-keeping team, repairing the pitch for the play-offs the next day.