Belfast Telegraph

Early exit for Manchester United as Northern Ireland march on to semi-final

By Keith Bailie

Manchester United’s return to the SuperCupNI ended in tears as they slipped to defeat at the hands of Southampton.

While the young Red Devils were left to lick their wounds, there were celebrations for two local teams.

Club NI and County Antrim will clash in tonight’s semi-final, meaning we are guaranteed to see a side from Northern Ireland in tomorrow evening’s Junior Section final.

Manchester United’s Neil Ryan — son of legendary youth coach Jimmy Ryan, who was an instrumental figure in the careers of the likes of David Beckham and Ryan Giggs — believes his young players will learn from yesterday’s disappointment, as Marcus Rashford did in the past.

Speaking after the 2-0 defeat at the Coleraine Showgrounds, Ryan said: “It’s not all about winning, you can’t win every game of football you play.

“It’s important for players to deal with disappointments and setbacks and it’s important for us to see how the players react to these challenges, too. It’s all part of their education.

“We’ve been in tournaments before when it hasn’t gone the way we would have liked and players like Marcus Rashford have been knocked out earlier than they would have liked or had terrible matches, but they’ve come back and shown great character and that’s what we’re looking for from our boys now.

“The lads can take a lot of experiences away from the tournament when we leave at the end of the week.

“There will have been a lot of lessons learned. We have some really talented boys with a lot of potential and we have some younger ones who physically have a lot of growing to do. Some have thrived on the atmosphere and others have struggled to cope a bit with the pressure but that is why we want them to experience tournament football.”

United, who needed just a point to qualify, fell behind in the third minute when the unfortunate Ben Pleavin turned a cross into his own net.

Southampton doubled their lead in the 15th minute when Frank Lovett used his pace to score a fine solo goal.

The young Red Devils never looked like getting back into the game.

Ryan’s United claimed wins on both Monday and Tuesday, but yesterday’s defeat was enough to end their SuperCupNI run.

Reflecting on the performance against Southampton, Ryan said: “Absolutely, we are disappointed not to make it into the SuperCupNI semi-finals. We put ourselves in a good position when we won the first two games.

“You set yourself up to come into the third match, knowing a win will put you into the semis.

“We just didn’t perform. A few of our players just didn’t turn up but it is a good learning experience for them.”

Declan Devine’s Club NI are unquestionably the story of the SuperCupNI so far. Devine’s kids are the only team that managed to win all three of their qualifying games, which is all the more impressive when you consider that they are a full year younger than their opponents.

Yesterday, they secured their semi-final spot with a 2-1 win over Middlesbrough in Broughshane, the goals scored by Connor Bradley and Ross McCausland. Bradley is on the books of Liverpool.

Devine’s boys will face Stefan Seaton’s County Antrim in today’s semi-final. They booked their place in the last four with a 2-0 win over American side Strikers in Portrush. Christopher McKee scored both goals.

In the other semi-final, Rangers will play American outfit Global Premier Soccer Bayern.

Yesterday, Rangers were in impressive form. They defeated Mick Kavanagh’s First Choice Soccer 2-0 at the Ballymena Showgrounds.

GPS ended Cherry Orchard’s winning run in Castlerock with a 1-0 triumph.

Elsewhere, it was a good day for the county teams.

Armagh enjoyed a narrow win over Swindon Town at Anderson Park in Coleraine. The local side won 2-1 with goals from Adam Wright and Jack Scott.

David Bryson’s Down side claimed their first win of the tournament with a 2-0 victory over Mexican team Colina in Castlerock.

Fermanagh also tasted success, beating Dundalk Schools League 3-2 in their clash in Ballymoney.

The all-county showdown at Anderson Park between Tyrone and Londonderry turned out to be a feisty affair.

Tyrone player Conor Williamson received a rare red card for an off-the-ball altercation but they still managed to run out 1-0 winners.

The 20 teams that didn’t reach the semi-finals of the Junior Section will compete in various subsidiary cups over the next two days.

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