NEW ARRIVAL Illia Kyrylyuk is pictured in the Westport Utd colours.
A PROMISING soccer player who fled the war in Ukraine made his debut for Westport United at the weekend.
Illia Kyrylyuk (17) impressed after being introduced on the wing in the second half during United’s 2-0 away win over Ballyhaunis Town.
A former youth player with Locomotive Kyiv, Illia joined up with the Mayo Super League outfit last month after arriving into the Westport area with his mother and two younger brothers.
Illia came to Ireland with his mother and two sisters along with a group of refugees from the Chernobyl area with the help of local charity Candle of Grace.
Before the outbreak of the war, he played for a club that has produced a number of players who have gone on to play professional football in Ukraine.
Illia joined up with the club through Phil Keegan, who is a former Westport United player and now part of the management their Mayo Super League squad.
“He’s well fit to play. He’s only seventeen but he was impressive the last night,” Westport United joint-manager Joe Lawless told The Mayo News.
“He seems well into it. He’s hungry, he trains well, he’s a strong fit young lad. All the signs are good,” he added.
Speaking on Westport United FC’s YouTube channel after their win over Ballyhaunis, Westport United player Aaron O’Toole praised Illia’s contribution.
“I thought he was really good. I know it must be hard coming over here from another country but he’s been training really well and he finally got his chance, and he took it. I thought he played really well,” he said.
Westport United coach Kieran Mulchrone told The Mayo News that Illia is ‘really enjoying’ being part of the squad.
Mulchrone said the club have organised a rota to bring him to training and matches from Crossmolina, where is is currently living.
“It’s mighty. It’s brilliant to see it, and he’s really thankful,” he said.
Mulchrone added that Illia was likely to feature in this Sunday’s Westaro Cup Final, where Westport United will take on Super League rivals Ballina town.
“Everyone one at Westport United Football Club wishes Illia the very best of luck,” wrote Westport United on social media.