County Antrim rewrote the history books as they became the first team from Northern Ireland to lift the Premier Section Cup at the Dale Farm Milk Cup.
Andy Hunter’s side beating Club America 3-2 on penalties after the game had ended 1-1 at the final whistle.
The result means the boys are the first local team team to get their hands on the trophy after years of trying.
And they had the lead after just 27 secondsas they attacked from the first whistle, throwing a ball into the box.
Brandon Doyle aimed a firm header at goal which Club America goalkeeper Rafael tipped onto the cross bar, only for young Ryan Nimick to turn the ball into the back of the net after a goal-line scramble. It was the perfect start.
Crusaders youngster Nimick had a chance to score his second goal of the game just two minutes later.
The teenager found himself in a yard of space just inside the Club America penalty box, but his low drive hit the foot of the post.
Club America almost equalised in the 19th minute of the second half when Ricardo fired the ball just past the post with a low shot.
The game’s most controversial moment arrived with 16 minutes left on the clock. Ballymena wonderkid Matthew Shevlin was fouled just outside the area.
The forward made sure it was he who took the free-kick, and his 20-yard effort cannoned off the underside of the bar and bounced on Rafael’s line. Shevlin thought the ball had crossed the line, but the officials said no.
Within two minutes, it was 1-1. Club America as Ricardo latched onto the ball to scorein the bottom corner. That goal eventually forced the game into a penalty shoot-out.
Club America’s Juan and Liam McKenna both found the net in the first round of kicks, before Jerey and Shevlin exchanged misses.
Jerey’s was well-saved by the magnficent Ferguson, while Shevlin went straight down the middle, allowing Rafael to save.
Ferguson made another save from Ricardo, before Cormac Lawlor gave Antrim a 2-1 lead. Johan levelled scores before Joe Tully made it 3-2 to Antrim with cool spot-kick.
Club America star Jared needed to score to keep the Mexicans in the game, but he hit the foot of the post. It was enough to secure County Antrim the 2015 Milk Cup.
Following the final County Antrim’s star man goalkeeper Jack Ferguson said:
“It means a lot to me and all the boys because Antrim have never won it before. I thought we were the better team during the game but we let in a late goal, so we just had to do it in the shoot-out.
“We really took it to them during the game and we did everything we could to win the match in normal time but it went to penalties.
“From my perspective I didn’t have a lot to do during the game so I had to keep on my toes.
“Then when it came to the penalty shoot-out it was very nerve-racking, but thankfully we did it. People are saying I saved two penalties but I think I got a touch on the last one.”
Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill was at Ballymena Showgrounds to watch the youngsters from County Antrim create their little piece of history.
O’Neill said: “It is a brilliant achievement for the County Antrim boys. They played against a very good team, as they showed particularly in the second-half.
“To do that in their fifth game in five days and show that sort of discipline was terrific. They showed great strength and courage and for a lot of these players, this was their first real taste of a game on this scale.
“Hopefully they can kick on from here and there is no reason why they shouldn’t do that.
“They are all locally based with Irish League clubs and I’d love to see the pathway into full-time football now,” he said.
Club America: Rafael, Johan, Alejandro, Juan, Daniel Alejandro, Ricardo, Armando, Aluair, Jared, Ulises, Jerey. Subs: Javier, Enrique, Antonio, Cabriel, Andres, Enrique, Ruben.
County Antrim: Ferguson, Lawlor, Fyfe, McAuley, McCracken, Henry, Doyle, McCourt, McKenna, McCreery, Nimick. Subs: Corry, McAllister, Roscoe, Patterson, Shevlin, Tully, Moore.
JUNIOR MILK CUP FINAL
Ghana’s Right to Dream put in one of the finest displays the Dale Farm Milk Cup has seen its 33 year history.
The boys from Accra claimed the tournament’s Junior section by hammering Southampton 7-0 at a rain soaked Ballymena Showgrounds.
RTD had already won youth tournaments in England, Holland and Sweden this year, so their Milk Cup success came as no surprise, but it made it no less sensational to witness.
It’s been a long journey for the young African players, most of whom grew up in great poverty.
British-born Academy Director Gareth Henderby explained; “Most of our players come from poor backgrounds, families are struggling day in, day out in Africa.
“We have to understand the mentality of player, where they have come from and the environment they’ve come from and the challenges they’ve had growing up
“So it does take time for them to adjust but we take them in at eight or nine year old now into the feeder schools and then the academy at 10 or 11 years old and they eventually leave at 18 so they really are with us a long time until they go into the professional game or the education pathway we have for them as well.”
It took just three minutes for Right to Dream to take the lead. Emmanul Bam burst into the box and directed a shot for the far post that was turned into the net by defender Joe Tomlinson.
Ibrahim Sadiq made no mistake in the 17th minute to make it 2-0.
It was 3-0 a minute before the break. Ernest Boahene scored a stunning 30-yard free-kick that bent into the top corner, giving young Alex Rutter no chance.
In the 10th minute of the second half Emmanuel Doku curled a stunning 18-yard effort into the top corner.
With four minutes left on the clock Isaac Atanga found himself in space on the edge of the box before placing a smart pass beyond Rutter.
The sixth goal arrived in second half stoppage time through Mohammed Diomande. It was 7-0 30 seconds later when Isaac Atanga ran through and he scored.
OTHER FINAL DAY RESULTS
JUNIOR SECTION DALE FARM SHIELD CHAMPIONS 2015 - Swindon Town
JUNIOR SECTION DALE FARM SALVER CHAMPIONS 2015 - Zacatepec
JUNIOR SECTION DALE FARM BOWL CHAMPIONS 2015 - Co. Londonderry
JUNIOR SECTION DALE FARM VASE CHAMPIONS 2015 - Sheffield United
JUNIOR SECTION DALE FARM GLOBE CHAMPIONS 2015 - Rangers
PREMIER SECTION DALE FARM SALVER CHAMPIONS 2015 - Vendee
PREMIER SECTION DALE FARM VASE CHAMPIONS 2015 - Right to Dream
PREMIER SECTION DALE FARM GLOBE CHAMPIONS 2015 - O’Higgins
PREMIER SECTION DALE FARM BOWL CHAMPIONS 2015 - OC Blues