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Antrim's starlets have earned their right to dream

By Keith Bailie

Published 30/07/2015

Head to head: County Derry’s Jack Malone takes on Antrim rival
Paul O’Neill in a junior section contest
Head to head: County Derry’s Jack Malone takes on Antrim rival Paul O’Neill in a junior section contest

Stefan Seaton's County Antrim reached the last four of the Junior Section of the Dale Farm Milk Cup for the third year in a row.

Antrim will now face tournament favourites Right To Dream in tonight's semi-final, while Premier League clubs Liverpool and Southampton will go head-to-head in the other semi.

Antrim, who reached the final last year, qualified for the last four despite a frustrating scoreless draw with Londonderry at Anderson Park.

Thankfully, seven points were enough to take them through.

Antrim can take some comfort from the fact that Right to Dream also drew their final qualifying game 0-0.

Incredibly, County Armagh achieved what the likes of Benfica, Arsenal and Ajax have failed to do, the brave county players keeping a clean sheet against the fearsome African team at the Coleraine Showgrounds.

However after winning their first two games, Right To Dream also reached the semi-finals.

Although County Armagh didn't qualify, coach Pat McGibbon was very proud of their performance.

"We went to watch them on Monday and knew they were obviously a very talented team, their first touch was great and they moved the ball very quickly.

"The boys were very disappointed with Tuesday's defeat to Tyrone so they knew they had something to show us.

"They knew they needed discipline in this game and, to be honest, we had a few half chances ourselves.

"We didn't have much possession but we didn't expect to against a side with so much quality.

"We can give them tactics but it's up to the boys to carry it out, so that result was all about them.

"Maybe we have to dampen down the praise at times and teach them other aspects of the game, like discipline, but all credit to them."

Liverpool were the last of the four clubs to qualify. They beat Swindon Town 2-1 with a second half penalty, to pip County Down into fourth place.

Their semi-finals opponents, Southampton, booked their place in the last four with a comprehensive 4-0 win over California side Orange County Blues in Portstewart.

This was a particularly impressive feat considering the Saints had just 12 fit players.

Academy Director Matt Hale said: "I'm really looking forward to playing Liverpool because at that age group we never get to play sides from the north of England.

"It's also interesting because Liverpool play a similar style of passing football to us. It should be a great game."

Rangers needed only a draw to reach this year's semi-finals, but the Glasgow side lost 1-0 to Roma USA in Ballymoney.

Plymouth Argyle also entered yesterday's games with an eye on a place in the semi-finals but a 3-1 defeat to fellow English side Brentford, in Portrush, ended their Milk Cup dreams.

Australian side Sydney United had a chance to progress after wins on Monday and Tuesday, but they lost 3-1 to Sheffield United in Limavady.

County Down finished the main tournament on a high with a fine 6-0 win over American side Strikers at the Joey Dunlop Centre in Ballymoney. Davy Bryson's men finished with six points from three games.

The only side to beat Down, Donegal Schools, also finished with two wins and a defeat.

They beat Colina 2-1 at Clough. The Chilean side lost all three games.

Sam Gamble's Fermanagh side enjoyed a Milk Cup victory when they beat Dundalk Schools 1-0 at Anderson Park.

Mexican side Zacatepic finished their campaign with a 2-0 win over North Dublin Schools, while GPS Bayern beat Tyrone 6-3 in a thrilling encounter in Broughshane.

Belfast Telegraph

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