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Milk Cup's cream will rise to top: David Healy

By Keith Bailie

Published 25/06/2015

Cream of the crop: David Healy and Jason Hempton (Dale Farm) pictured at the draw for the 2015 Dale Farm Milk Cup in W5 at the Odyssey Arena yesterday PACEMAKER
Cream of the crop: David Healy and Jason Hempton (Dale Farm) pictured at the draw for the 2015 Dale Farm Milk Cup in W5 at the Odyssey Arena yesterday PACEMAKER

Northern Ireland's record goalscorer David Healy still believes the Dale Farm Milk Cup can play a key part in developing talented young footballers.

In the 90s, Healy played for both Manchester United and Northern Ireland in the tournament, helping his international team to lift the Elite Section title back in 1997.

Both sides were conspicuous by their absence at yesterday's draw.

Irish FA youth coach Healy was particularly disappointed by United's decision to drop out of the north coast youth tournament at short notice.

He said: "That's a decision made in-house by Manchester United and I know the organisers are disappointed.

"I'm sure the people of the north coast are disappointed and as someone who played for United, I'm disappointed.

"They were winners last year and you can guarantee no matter what age level they were playing at, there was going to be a good turnout.

"The Man Uniteds, Man Citys and Chelseas may look to play in so-called higher profile tournaments in Europe, and that might be to do with sponsorship, but the Milk Cup has done a lot to help develop top players."

Healy has fond memories of representing United at the Milk Cup back in 1995.

"I first played in it when I was about 13 or 14 for United. I remember going through the streets of Coleraine for the parade thinking 'I've arrived'.

"Despite all the other clubs and the interest in them, being with United was huge. Following in the footsteps of United teams before me was so exciting."

Although Healy made his Milk Cup debut in 1995, he didn't collect a winners' medal until 1997. He was part of Roy Millar's Northern Ireland team that won the Elite Section, alongside the likes of Aaron Hughes and Andy Kirk.

"Seeing the picture of when I won the Elite Section with Northern Ireland brings back so many memories," he continued. "I played for Northern Ireland for 13 years. Before that I played at every age level from Under-15 to Under-21 before making my senior debut.

"In those years the only thing I won playing for Northern Ireland was the Milk Cup.

"Aaron Hughes was in the same team that year. The year before, I played against Aaron. He was with Newcastle and I was with United. That was a bit weird because he was my captain at Lisburn Youth. He has had an amazing career and is still an important player for Northern Ireland."

Healy currently works as a youth coach for the Irish FA. He is looking forward to watching the stars of the future playing for their county sides at this year's tournament. However, they might not know the former Leeds United man is in the stands.

"I like to see the County teams. It's good to see them in different situations against different types of players," said Healy. "The boys in the Junior section gain so much from the Milk Cup before international football.

"It's an invaluable experience. I try to sneak in. I think it's better if they don't know. It might inspire them but it might terrify them. That way I can talk to them about what I have seen."

In the Junior Section, County Armagh will face County Tyrone in a local derby, while Liverpool will face fellow English club Swindon Town.

In the Premier Section, Russian side CSKA Moscow will face Spanish club Malaga, while County Fermanagh will take on County Londonderry.

The tournament will kick-off with the parade through Coleraine on Sunday July 26, with finals night set for the Ballymena Showgrounds on Friday July 31.

Belfast Telegraph

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