FOOTBALL: New spin off for SupercupNI

Northern Ireland celebrate their Under-13 win at the 2014 tournament. �Russell Pritchard
Northern Ireland celebrate their Under-13 win at the 2014 tournament. �Russell Pritchard

Innovation is the name of the game for organisers of one of the world’s best known international youth football tournaments.

The team behind SuperCupNI are launching a new spin off next summer with an Under-13 competition for club sides.

“It’s a progression from an experiment we kicked off in 2014 and there has been a positive response,” revealed tournament chairman Victor Leonard.

The move comes as the competition celebrates its 36th anniversary.

“We didn’t involve too many teams when we trialled a competition at this age group but after careful assessment of the outcome we are convinced that expanding the format is worth exploring in 2018,” he added.

Northern Ireland beat Manchester United in the 2014 final at Coleraine Showgrounds but Victor points out that the 2018 version will probably feature eight teams and exclusively be for club sides.

“It is almost impossible to attempt an international competition at this level especially during the summer months,” he said.

“We believe club sides will be much more amenable and having spent considerable time taking soundings from many of our contacts, we feel the club option is the way forward as we seek to develop our event going forward.”

With Premier (Under-17) and Junior (U-15) tournaments the mainstay of the existing event, the new Mini section will be centred in Coleraine.

“Top level competition for players at this age is something many cross channel clubs are keen to be involved in,” explained Victor. “We pride ourselves of the calibre of clubs entering our event and that is a key part of the appeal to cross channel clubs working with players in the Under-13 age group.

“It does present us as organisers with new challenges but we feel that it is worthwhile to try something different and present our supporters with new and exciting expansion of the SuperCupNI experience.”

More details about the Mini SuperCupNI will be released in the new year.

Next summer’s tournament runs from Monday, July 23, to Friday, July 27, with the welcome parade in Coleraine on Sunday, July 22.