Milk Cup joy for Manchester United
Co Tyrone 0 Manchester United 1
Northern Ireland 1 Mexico 2: Manchester United are this year’s Northern Ireland Milk Cup Premier Section champions
A late goal from Oliver McBurney led to joyous scenes at the Ballymena Showgrounds as the young Reds celebrated another success in this competition.
But spare a thought for their opponents Tyrone. The local boys battled bravely in front of a bumper crowd, but ultimately came up short in what was a Northern Ireland county’s first appearance in the final.
They were just minutes away from taking the tie to a penalty shoot-out before McBurney rose unmarked from a free-kick to head in off the crossbar.
Fans thought Tyrone had won a penalty in injury time when Mark Megarry clashed with the goalkeeper inside the opposing area, but the referee instead blew his whistle for a United free-kick.
The full-time whistle followed soon after — to the dejection of the Tyrone players.
A bumper crowd of more than 3,600 – a record for the tournament – watched finals night in what was a memorable evening of football with two county sides reaching the finals of both the Premier and Junior sections.
The first half of the Premier decider was a quiet affair with chances thin on the ground.
United enjoyed more than their fair share of possession but they rarely stretched the Tyrone boys who looked comfortable in keeping their shape.
Skipper Andreas Pereria had the first chance of the game when he stung Patrick Molloy's hands from outside the box in the sixth minute.
Former PSV midfielder Pereria was starting to boss the midfield and he created United's next opportunity.
His mazy run down the left flank ended with a neat lay-off to McBurney, but the striker, with four goals to his name already, was denied by Molloy's smart save low to his right.
England schoolboy international Demetri Mitchell had the only other chance of note before the break as he cut in from the left flank but placed his shot too close to the Tyrone stopper.
Less than a minute into the second half the Reds Devils survived a scare when the referee waved away Mark Megarry's penalty claims after going down under Tyler Reid's challenge inside the box.
At the other end, just three minutes later, Matthew Wilock's quick feet on the edge of the box allowed him a sight on goal but again Molloy was equal to it.
Half chances continued to present themselves and the next was just two minutes later as Joe Riley headed over from 10 yards out.
United continued to see plenty of the ball, but with Tyrone keeping their shape well there was little open space for the Reds in the final third.
The impressive Pereira weaved his way through the midfield on 45 minutes as he looked for an opening but, despite making it as far as penalty area, he ended up blazing well over.
Seven minutes later Jordan Thompson and McBurney combined well on the left flank to send Castlewellan youngster Ruairi Croskery on his way and his lay-off on the edge of the box to Pereira led to the best chance of the half.
Pereira found some rare space on the edge of the box to get his shot away and only the base of Molloy's right hand post denied him the first goal of the contest.
By this stage United were upping their workrate as they looked to break the deadlock and centre half Mallon bravely blocked McBurney's shot to clear the danger.
From the resulting corner McBurney prodded just wide from 12 yards.
The moment of the half came with just 10 minutes remaining, McBurney again in the thick of the action, unleashing a thunderous half volley centrally, 22 yards out.
Molloy was every inch its equal however as he, somehow, got down low to his right pushing the ball away.
He didn't have much of a respite, however, as Mitchell tested him from the edge of the box and, yet again, he showed strong hands to clear the danger.
The winner came as the game ticked into overtime from a set-piece.
Pereria, at the heart of much of Untied's good work going forward, swung over the free-kick from the right, McBurney rose highest in the middle of the box and headed in, via the underside of the crossbar.
There was still drama to come however as Megarry clashed with the goalkeeper over an aerial ball but the referee's whistle was for a United free-kick and not – as the local boys hoped – a penalty.