Liverpool and Rangers will meet in a mouthwatering Dale Farm Milk Cup for the first time this summer.
Yesterday’s draw in Belfast paired two of the biggest clubs in the Junior competition at the international youth tournament while local representatives County Armagh are also looking forward to games against both sides.
County Down, who have an impressive tournament pedigree, face 2012 Junior winners Brentford and Queen of the South while holders Everton and Brazilian giants SC Corinthians will be early opponents for County Fermanagh.
In the Premier competition Manchester United are up against CSKA Moscow and County Armagh.
Former England, Manchester United and Aston Villa striker Dion Dublin assisted organisers at the draw in W5 at the Odyssey and urged young players to grab their moment on a big stage.
“It’s important they get the chance to play in a competition of this stature and test themselves against the best.
“To do that you have to be at your best, you’ve got to shine and listen to your coaches.”
He encouraged young players to put in plenty of graft: “It is all about hard work behind the scenes even when your routine training sessions are finished. That’s how you improve. The great players do that.”
He said that the significant role the Dale Farm Milk Cup plays in helping develop young footballers for the challenges of full-time careers cannot be underestimated.
Dublin, now a respected media pundit, added: “This is a competition that has thrived over three decades because it has sustained its reputation for attracting quality clubs from across the globe and offering them the highest level of competition available.
“Maintaining such a remarkable degree of seriously good entries is impressive but it takes considerable commitment from organisers and they are the ones who are the unsung heroes in the success of this event.
“I am not surprised when I read some of the names of players who have competed in the event over the years. You have back catalogue which I am sure is the envy of many.”
The draw was streamed live to a worldwide audience by BBC Sport NI through its website and tournament chairman Victor Leonard revealed that several exciting innovations are planned to expand the event in the future thanks to the support of new lead sponsors Dale Farm.
Dale Farm, commercial director Jason Hempton said it was pleasing for his company to enable the “hugely positive” event to continue its long assosication with the dairy industry.
“The competition brings together the elements of youth sport, fun and healthy lifestyle.”
He added: “As a country we are small in size but we habe proved that we are also capable of big things, particularly in sport. Our company is similar with Northern Ireland roots and worldwide connections.”