Belfast Telegraph

Marlin believes tournament could be career launch pad

By Keith Bailie

The Irish FA's Elite Performance co-ordinator, Conor Marlin, believes the Milk Cup's county system is a winning formula. It has long been argued in some corners that Irish League clubs should compete instead of the six county sides, but Marlin believes the county format provides equality.

There a few better placed to assess the current system than Marlin, who has worked with Glentoran's successful youth academy and is currently the manager of the County Tyrone Junior side.

Marlin said: "There has always been an argument made that Irish League clubs should play in the Milk Cup instead of the counties, but I think current system is fair.

"If you had a qualifying tournament for club sides it would put the young lads and the coaches under pressure to get results and that's not the best way to develop talent.

"Also, if you have a good players at an average club they will not get the chance to play in the Milk Cup. The county system gives everyone the chance to compete for a place in the tournament.

"I think the county system brings a lot of boys together, who perhaps wouldn't normally play together. In GAA it is a big thing to play for Tyrone, and we're trying to install that in our Milk Cup players.

"It's a positive experience for the lads who get selected."

Tyrone boss Marlin believes youth coaches should focus on improving their players, rather than winning tournaments.

The 28 year-old coach believes there is too much emphasis placed on winning games.

"If we won the Milk Cup this year but none of our players went on to have a career in the game, then I would consider that a failure.

"For me, it's all about player development. At times there is a win at all costs attitude in youth football, but winning trophies isn't what it's about.

"You see clubs and parents who are desperate for their boys to win, but just because you're winning games at Under 12 level doesn't mean you'll be winning games as an adult. It's important we educate our players in the right manner.

"Our long term aim is to produce players who can play professionally and at international level. If we can raise the standard it will also benefit the domestic game as well."

Marlin's Tyrone side will start with a game against Mexican side Chivas before playing local rivals Fermanagh and Milk Cup regulars Middlesbrough.

"Chivas will be a real test for us as they're one of the best teams in Central America. That's where Manchester United's Javier Hernandez started his career.

"Middlesbrough might not be the team they were but they still produce a lot of good young players, so that will be another difficult game. If you look at their first team, quite a few of their players have came through their academy.

"We always seem to draw Fermanagh. This year we've got them at both Junior and Premier level. A lot of our boys play in the same leagues and clubs as the Fermanagh boys, so they'll be keen to do well against their friends."

At Premier level Tyrone will play Fermanagh, Portuguese side Benfica and Mexican outfit Club America. The Premier side will be managed by Eamon Curry, while Crusaders midfielder Richard Clarke is on the Tyrone coaching staff.

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