Forget Euro 2012, local footie fans are in for a treat when Premier League giants Man Utd and Newcastle land in the Toon.
The clubs’ next generation of stars will provide a feast of football at Ballymoney’s Riada Stadium when the Milk Cup arrives next month.
It all kicks off with a spicy international feel at the JDLC when Turkey take on Mexico on Saturday 21 July (7pm) in the Elite section.
Two days later Chile will hope to be too hot for Denmark, also in the Elite competition (8pm).
Bolton Wanderers take on Otago on 21 July and the town will be a sea of red when Man Utd take on Revo Express at 6pm on Monday 23 July in the Premier section.
It’s a clash of the counties on Tuesday 24 July when Londonderry face off with Fermanagh (3.30pm).
Later that day Newcastle will be aiming to earn their stripes when they battle it out with CSK Moscow (7pm).
In what is one of the highlights of this year’s milestone 30th anniversary staging of what is now a global event on the football calendar, all the county teams will host their opening group games in their own areas.
It ties in with the 21st year of county teams participating in the competition and it is an initiative which is welcomed by Tourism Minister, Arlene Foster, who hosted a reception for the Northern Ireland Milk Cup to mark its 30th birthday.
“With 120 games spread over the week at 20 venues in all six county areas, the Milk Cup helps give Northern Ireland positive profile. The tournament also adds to our portfolio of events, giving tourists an enhanced choice of things to do.
“The Milk Cup has become a hugely successful event for local football, the local economy, tourism, sport and international relations,” said Minister Foster as she addressed a large crowd which included Northern Ireland manager, Michael O’Neill and vice-president of FIFA, Jim Boyce.
“Last year approximately 60,000 visitors attended the Milk Cup and it is estimated the total visitor spend was in the region of £1.6 million.
“From humble beginnings in 1983, with eight local teams and eight visiting teams, this year’s tournament will host up to 49 teams, with representation from all six FIFA Confederations – the whole of the football family.”
The tournament runs from July 21 to 26.
Victor Leonard, Milk Cup chairman, said there were many people who deserved credit for the continuing success of the tournament.
“We are looking forward to the event and welcoming the teams from across the world to not just the regular host venues, but also to the other council areas which will be staging the opening games. It promises to be one of our best tournaments yet.”
Check out our website - www.ballymoneytimes.co.uk - for the full list of fixtures.