Cohen Henderson was thrilled to make his senior debut in Glenavon’s 1-1 draw with Dungannon Swifts. “I am delighted,” he said. “I had no idea that I was going to play until I arrived at Mourneview Park. It’s the fulfilment of a big ambition. I am grateful to Gary for the faith he has shown in me. But now that I have played, I want to play again.”

Henderson has been part of the Glenavon set-up since the age of ten. He took the field against the Swifts aged 16 years, 252 days. “It is a very significant moment for our Academy,” said Blues’ boss Gary Hamilton. “Cohen is the first player to come through all the way from the 10s to the senior team. Credit is due to Jason King, the Chairman, Jeff Magee, the Manager, and all the other coaches. They work for the club on a voluntary basis and do a tremendous job. The fact that Cohen has reached this point at not even 17 years of age is testimony to, firstly, his ability and dedication, but, secondly, the hours of work which have gone in behind the scenes. I keep saying it and I will say it again, we have an Academy to be proud of.”

Cohen made his debut for Glenavon’s Under-20s just before Christmas. Since then, he has scored 10 goals. A few weeks ago, Gary Hamilton invited him to train with the first team and, just before Easter, included him as a substitute against Ballymena United. It has been a meteoric rise. “It seems to have happened very quickly,” said the teenager, “But I have worked very hard this season.”

The 16 year old, who was applauded warmly by Glenavon’s supporters as he left the field late in the second half against Dungannon, was thrilled with his debut. “I enjoyed every moment of it,” he explained. “The pace is faster than I have been used to, but I thought that I adapted to it reasonably well.” Cohen almost doubled Glenavon’s early lead with a rasping right foot volley which skimmed the top of the crossbar. “I am gutted that the ball didn’t hit the net,” he added. “Fitzy flicked it on and I instinctively hit it. I thought that it was in.”

Cohen is a student at Saint Ronan’s College, Lurgan. Soon he will sit ‘A’ Levels in Business Studies, I.C.T. and Sports Science. He is also a member of Clan Eireann G.A.C. and plays regularly for Armagh Minors. “I enjoy Gaelic but this season I have concentrated on football, and it has really paid off,” he adds. “Breaking into the first team has given me a taste of what’s possible and I want more of it.”

Henderson’s dad, Ryan, played for Linfield, Donegal Celtic, Belfast Celtic, Lurgan Celtic and Ards. His cousin, Niall Henderson, was, of course, a Glenavon regular for a period early in the 2010s. Cohen hopes that his performance against Dungannon will be a springboard to bigger and better things. “I have loved every minute of my time here,” he added. “I just want to keep improving. It would be a dream to establish myself at the top level.”