THREE local lads have been included in this year’s preliminary Co. Down Milk Cup squads.
After extensive trials throughout County Down, the Junior and Premier managers have selected their panels up to the pre-tournament residential weekend which takes place in Dublin from June 22-24.
After Dublin, both panels must be cut to the pre-requisite 18 players for the Milk Cup proper.
To mark the 30th anniversary of the competition, the County teams will play their opening matches as “home” games on Saturday, 21st July – with Parkway in Comber hosting County Down’s two teams. The finals will take place on Thursday, 26thJuly, the day before the opening of the Olympic Games in London.
Luke McAnespie and Adam Salley and Banbridge and Jonathan Walsh from Dromore have been included in the Junior squad while Stuart Mallen has been named in the Premier squad.
The Milk Cup’s 30th anniversary draw took place recently at the BBC’s Blackstaff Studios in Belfast. Newly-appointed Northern Ireland manager boss Michael O’Neill joined current internationals Andrew Little and Corry Evans in making the draw for the world renowned international youth football competition that takes place on the north coast in July.
The tournament is marking its 30th anniversary with two games at Parkway, home of Northern Amateur Premier Division Club, Comber Rec.
County Down’s Junior side landed one of the Milk Cup kingpins, with five-time winners Everton visiting Comber’s Parkway grounds in the opening game on Saturday, 21st July. Everton have lifted five Junior titles in seven appearances, three in the last four years. “Everton have a long association with us and are probably the most successful team at the tournament,” said Milk Cup Chairman, Victor Leonard.
“Their manager, David Moyes, has been a solid backer of what we are doing. He has Portrush connections through his late mother and brought his senior team to Coleraine to play a Northern Ireland select when we celebrated our 25th anniversary.
“We have witnessed players of he calibre of Phil Jagielka, James Vaughan, Victor Anichebe, Leon Osman and Tony Hibbert in their junior ranks over the years and they have terrific support from fans in Northern Ireland.”
County Down’s Premier team have also landed a plum draw in their opening fixture – with 2010 winners Etoile Lusitana from Senegal, coming to the home of Comber Rec. Premier boss John Bailie is hugely excited by the prospect of facing Etoile. “It will be tough. We lost narrowly to Etoile (1-0) at last year’s Milk Cup and we’re fully aware of their technical ability. It will be a fantastic day at Comber, and hopefully the locals can come in their numbers to cheer us on.”
Junior fixtures: Saturday, 21st July - Co.Down v Everton at Parkway, Comber.
Monday, 23rd July - Co.Down v North Dublin Schools.
Tuesday, 24th July - Co.Down v Queen of the South.
Premier fixtures: Saturday, 21st July - Co.Down v Etoile Lusitana at Parkway, Comber.
Monday, 23rd July - Co.Down v Bolton.
Tuesday, 24th July - Co.Down v Revo Express.