Belfast Telegraph

Celtic planning to make debut at SuperCupNI

By Stuart McKinley

The SuperCupNI will welcome one of the biggest clubs in the world for the first time in July.

Glasgow giants Celtic have never competed in the tournament before, even though their Old Firm rivals Rangers and many other Scottish clubs have taken part over the last 23 years.

The Hoops will make their debut in the newly re-branded SuperCupNI in a new section, with organisers introducing an under-21 tournament for the first time.

"Celtic have been extremely positive about the idea since we first approached them," said competition chairman Victor Leonard.

"It is exciting for us to break new ground, not only with the inauguration of a new competition, but also in welcoming a club of the calibre of Celtic to the event.

"In the past we staged under-19 and under-20 Elite competitions for international sides, but that has proved challenging in recent years.

"We wound up the international section last year while we continued to examine diversifying and the possibility of expanding beyond the Junior and Premier competitions.

"We have been exploring new avenues for expansion and there has been widespread support for a competition at under-21 level from many clubs."

Northern Ireland under-19 goalkeeper Connor Hazard is expected to be in the Celtic squad.

"The event will be an integral part of our pre-season preparation and will prove to be an excellent test against top quality opposition, prior to defending our league title in Scotland," said Celtic Development Squad coach Tommy McIntyre. "We look forward to having a big Celtic support at our matches."

Spanish club Real Sociedad will also take part in the under-21 event, which will kick off the SuperCupNI on Thursday July 21, with two semi-finals.

The two losers will feature in a 3rd/4th place play-off at Ballymena Showgrounds on Saturday July 23, followed by the final.

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