Belfast Telegraph

Football tournament secures sponsor

The future of one of Northern Ireland's showpiece sporting events has been secured after it won a major new sponsorship deal.

Coleraine's Dale Farm Milk Cup recognises the North Coast youth football tournament's long association with the dairy industry.

It attracted teams from across the planet and Manchester United gave the world one of its first glimpses of David Beckham in the 1991 tournament.

The Dairy Council ended its support last year but now the largest milk producer in the country has stepped in.

Dale Farm Group chief executive David Dobbin said: "The tournament has become one of the world's best known and respected international sporting events at this level, and throughout its existence has been associated with the dairy industry.

"We are delighted that this association will continue through our sponsorship.

"The Dale Farm Milk Cup sponsorship reaffirms our support for local sport and promoting the benefits of exercise for a healthy lifestyle."

More than 65 countries have been represented in 32 years of the youth football tournament's staging.

It was an experiment at the beginning in 1983 with eight local teams and an equal number of visitors including an outfit from Algeria and a side from Coleraine's twin town of La Roche-sur-Yon in France.

A galaxy of promising stars has since graced pitches at the competition, representing clubs from Canada, the US, Brazil, Chile, Iceland and the former Soviet Union.

They attract a welcoming crowd of several thousand every year who line the streets as they parade through the Bannside town.

In 1991 a United team bursting with talent including Beckham, Nicky Butt, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Robbie Savage took top honours, beating Liverpool 4-1 in the quarter-final. Keith Gillespie scored three and Beckham a penalty. Robbie Fowler was included in the Anfield club's line-up that day in Portstewart.

In 1988 future Liverpool and England star Steve McManaman helped the Merseysiders triumph. He went on to became the first British player to win the Uefa Champions League title twice. Republic of Ireland international and coach Steve Staunton played for Dundalk Schoolboys in 1984, his full potential later realised during his country's stellar performance in the Italian World Cup of 1990.

Liverpool's Bob Paisley was among managerial greats to visit. The ceiling of Paisley's Portrush hotel reportedly collapsed, provoking one of many memories associated with the tournament.

Ryan Giggs and Nicky Barmby are among others who performed. Eight of the England squad at the last World Cup finals in South Africa took part in the Milk Cup, including Wayne Rooney with Everton and Joe Cole and Michael Carrick with West Ham and Peter Crouch with Spurs.

By that stage the competition had expanded from Coleraine to neighbouring areas, Castlerock, Broughshane, Portstewart and Ballymena among the venues.

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