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Harry McConkey turns to old pal Michael O'Neill for European tips

By Keith Bailie

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has been helping Harry McConkey's amateur international side prepare for the finals of UEFA Regions Cup.

The men in green start their campaign in Dublin tonight (7pm) when they face their counterparts from Germany, Wuttemberg, at Whitehall, Home Farm's ground, before playing the Croatia team on Sunday and a Polish side on Wednesday.

McConkey's side qualified for the finals by beating representatives from Moldova, Ukraine and Catalonia last September.

Northern Ireland's Eastern Region side will be aiming to top their group and qualify for the final at Shamrock Rovers 'Tallaght Stadium on Saturday week, a ground the manager of the senior team knows well.

"Michael O'Neill has been a massive help to me. In the past he has taken the boys for training and he has helped me plan some of my preparation for the trip to Dublin," said McConkey.

"Also, Michael knows the League of Ireland scene well as he was the manager of Shamrock Rovers for a number of years. He was able to recommend local training grounds in Dublin for us, he's been a big help.

"Michael and I go back a long way. He was the captain of the Mid-Antrim Schools team I coached in 1986 and he was my room-mate while playing together at Coleraine, when we played Brandenburg Stahl from East Germany in the UEFA Cup."

The Regions Cup is the amateur equivalent of the European Championships. Like their senior counterparts, McConkey believes his side have a great fighting spirit.

"We've got that 'Our Wee Country' mentality. There is something in an Ulsterman's DNA that means they over perform when they're the underdog. We're always determined to show the world that we can compete with anybody in the world.

McConkey's squad is made up of players in the Belfast Telegraph Championship who have never played in the Premiership.

Their opponents tonight are one of the favourites to lift the trophy on July 4.

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