Andy Kirk highlights benefits of Milk Cup experience
Former Northern Ireland international Andy Kirk will again help spearhead Rangers' search for success at this year's Dale Farm Milk Cup.
The ex-Glentoran, Hearts and Dunfermline winger is a coach in the club's youth academy and says his experiences at the tournament as a teenager helped shape his future career.
Kirk, who won 14 international caps, was part of the Northern Ireland squad which first lifted the Elite title back in 1997 but had previously played in the competition twice.
"It was so special to be part of such a massive event as a boy," he recalls. "I played for Dundonald Youth League in the Junior section in 1993. I remember we beat Everton but lost to Rangers and also had a good win over a team from Bermuda. I played for Northern Ireland two years in succession with David Healy, Aaron Hughes, Wes Boyle and Tim McCann in the squad.
"The chance to compete against quality teams from around the world is the big strength of the tournament and then it is the whole week-long experience of being together. I still remember the terrific reception we received at the opening parade through Coleraine."
Kirk, now aiming to undertake his Pro Licence in coaching, reveals that the players who represented Rangers on their return to the event last summer after 21 years were also "blown away" by the massive welcome, not only at the parade but also throughout the week and that is echoed by Rangers' youth academy chief Craig Mulholland, who is also accompanying the squad.
"I was amazed at the backing we received from the public in Northern Ireland," said Mulholland, the man who developed Rangers' Football in the Community Programme. "It was obvious that the people who came out to all our games were as passionate about the club as we are."
The Milk Cup begins with a parade of teams through Coleraine on Sunday, July 26.