County Down appearances sent Magennis on path to top
Northern Ireland striker Josh Magennis believes his time with the County Down Milk Cup squad helped shape his international career.
Kilmarnock man Magennis was a goalkeeper until County Down Milk Cup coach Paul Ritchie encouraged the Bangor-lad to try playing up front. Now Magennis has 12 caps for his country as an outfield player.
Josh (24) explained: "I have to give credit to Paul Ritchie, who was my Milk Cup coach. I was in the Down squad as a goalkeeper but at the same time I was also playing some club games up front, but I hadn't really decided what way to go.
"Paul got wind of it and asked me to play one half of a friendly in goals and one half up front.
"He asked me after the game which I preferred and I said up front, so Paul and his assistant Kyle Spiers said, 'well that's it, you're playing up front.'
"And that was it. I haven't looked back since."
Magennis believes his time at the Milk Cup with County Down really helped his progression.
"It was great because the team included lads from all over County Down. The banter was good, the coaching was good, everything about it was good.
"Then, actually playing in the Milk Cup itself was the highlight of my career up until that date.
"It was great playing against teams like Maccabi Haifa and Everton.
"It was tough because after the Milk Cup most of my County Down team mates were signed up to go and play for English clubs, and I wasn't with anyone. It was tough for me but, at the same time, it was a great learning process because I got to play with top players in training every day for a few weeks and that really helped my game."
As a teenager Magennis was a bit of a messer, but now the powerful striker has put his faith in hard work.
"I was up to all sorts at the Milk Cup. I saw myself as a bit of a joker. I was up to all hours, eating sweets and playing on the PlayStation.
"I realised though that I just had to be myself.
"We had a really good team and there were a number of players in our squad that were more technically gifted than me, but I had the work rate. Some players have all the skill but fall away because they don't have the work rate.
"The ones who work hard are the ones who stick the pace because a manager will always respect a player who gives them the same week in, week out.
They might not be the best performer but you know they won't let you down."
This year's Dale Farm Milk Cup kicks-off on Sunday, with Down's Premier side, coached by former Bangor captain John Bailie, facing Mexican side Club America, Motherwell and last year's finalists Vendee. while the Junior side, managed by Ards coach David Bryson, will play Brentford, Donegal Schools and American side Strikers.