Cream of football talent due in town

A NUMBER of potential football stars of the future will be strutting their stuff in Ballymoney next week.

Up and coming players from across the globe are set to compete in the Milk Cup from Monday, with the town playing host to several clashes involving high profile sides.

There are four games taking place at the Riada Stadium on Monday. County Tyrone face County Fermanagh in the Junior Section at 1.30pm and again in the Premier Section from 3.30pm followed by Bolton Wanderers versus Etoile Lusitana at 6pm.

At 8pm Mexico take on Georgia in the Elite Section.

On Tuesday Plymouth Argyle face County Armagh (1.30pm) in the Junior Section at the same venue and at 8pm Tottenham Hotspur play County Fermanagh in a Premier game..

At noon on Wednesday County Down play Waterford in the Junior Section, and in the Premier Section Bohemians face County Armagh (3.30pm) and Desportivo Brazil play County Antrim (6pm).

The last game of the day at 8pm sees Denmark go up against Israel in the Elite Section.

Again, the finals on Friday will be held at Ballymena Showgrounds.

Meanwhile, the World Cup may be going to Qatar in 2022 but Qatar’s football focus is in Northern Ireland right now.

Members of the Aspire Academy touched down on Saturday - the first club to arrive here for next week’s Northern Ireland Milk Cup.

Tournament chairman Victor Leonard said their arrival highlighted another facet of the international youth tournament’s importance to the local tourist economy.

“We have established excellent relationships with Aspire over the past number of years and they have come here early this year to set up a training camp ahead of the competition,” said Victor.

“More teams are now coming to the Province earlier to prepare well in advance. Aspire are currently based at the University of Ulster and will move into hotel accommodation later in the week.

“Aspire is a massive sports academy offering outstanding facilities for athletes in Qatar to excel at their chosen sport.

“Sport is such an important part of life in Qatar and the fact the country is hosting the 2022 World Cup has particularly further enhanced the interest in football there.

“We view it as a huge boost to have such a high profile country, in global football terms, competing at our event.”

A number of participating teams and officials are flying in this week including the Otago squad from New Zealand and California’s South Coast Strikers who are sending teams to contest both the Junior and Premier events.

The 29th Milk Cup kicks off next Monday following Sunday’s traditional parade of teams through Coleraine to the Showgrounds from 7pm.