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Manchester United defender Paddy McNair draws on Milk Cup lessons

By Stuart McKinley

Published 12/05/2015

Making progress: A young Paddy McNair takes on Revo Express at Riada Stadium, Ballymoney in the 2012 Milk Cup tournament
Making progress: A young Paddy McNair takes on Revo Express at Riada Stadium, Ballymoney in the 2012 Milk Cup tournament

Just three years ago, Paddy McNair was playing in the Northern Ireland Milk Cup.

Such has been his rapid rise to fame over the last nine months that the Ballyclare youngster is now enough of a high-profile figure to be invited to make the draw for the 2015 competition.

McNair will be in Belfast on Tuesday, May 26 and that will see him join Man United team-mate Wayne Rooney in both playing in the tournament and being invited back for the draw.

Indeed, McNair is a veteran of two Milk Cup tournaments, first playing in 2011 when United lost to Aspire of Qatar in the Premier final.

"I'm proud to be asked to make the Milk Cup draw," said McNair.

"I played in the competition with United two years in succession and it was a fantastic experience."

United will be back at the Dale Farm Milk Cup again this year in the Premier section, marking the club's 27th consecutive appearance on the north coast, as the tournament figures high on the priority list of those in charge of the club's Academy.

In all the Old Trafford giants have played in 12 finals, winning half of them, and this year the United youngsters will attempt to become the first team ever to secure three successive victories after triumphs over County Tyrone in 2013 and French club Vendee last year.

"It makes me proud to see the Milk Cups won by the club displayed in the trophy room at Old Trafford," said McNair.

"That alone indicates how much prestige is placed on the competition at Old Trafford."

At 67-years-old, Dave Bushell has overseen the development of many youngsters who have gone on to become integral parts of the United first-team squad and he places great value on the Milk Cup week every year.

"The competition continues to play an important role in the development of our young players," said Bushell, Head of Education and Welfare at Old Trafford.

"We believe the quality of teams at the tournament is exceptional and provides a variety of challenges for the players."

Jim Sandford, Dale Farm Milk Cup publicity officer, said: "We have tried to improve the mix of teams again this year, but Manchester United's decision to come back again is a massive boost for us.

"The club has a huge following in Northern Ireland and the support for their teams every year in our competition is incredible."

McNair, spotted by United as an 11-year-old at Ballyclare Colts, made one appearance as a substitute at the 2011 Dale Farm Milk Cup when the side reached the final but lost to impressive Qatar side Aspire. McNair featured again the following year in a squad that included Brazilian midfielder Andreas Pereira.

Among the newcomers at the Dale Farm Milk Cup this year are Zacatepec from Mexico in the Junior event, continuing a strong link with the Central American country which the organising committee established more than a decade ago.

Another Mexican outfit, Club America, will contest the Premier section which has again attracted the popular Strikers from California and OC Blues, who are based in the suburbs of Los Angeles.

Last year's beaten finalists, Vendee, were so pleased with the reception they received that they were one of the first to seek a place for 2015.

Japan will be represented by Higashi Fukuoka and long-time supporters Otago from New Zealand are back once more.

The draw will take place in W5 at the Odyssey Arena on May 26.

The tournament begins with the traditional parade of competing teams through Coleraine on Sunday, July 26, concluding with finals night at Ballymena Showgrounds on Friday, July 31.

Belfast Telegraph

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