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Pat McGibbon keen to see Armagh thrive

By Keith Bailie

Published 23/07/2015

Right and ready: The Armagh Junior team are under the leadership of Pat McGibbon at the Milk Cup
Right and ready: The Armagh Junior team are under the leadership of Pat McGibbon at the Milk Cup
'This is what the Milk Cup is all about. It gives our boys the chance to test themselves against styles of football they haven't experienced before'

Former Northern Ireland defender turned youth coach Pat McGibbon has no shortage of football experience, but he will find himself up against a unique opponent when his County Armagh Junior side take on African academy Right To Dream at the Coleraine Showgrounds next Wednesday afternoon.

The club, from Accra in Ghana, have previously performed well in prestigious youth tournaments such as the Gothia Cup and the Premier Cup, while this year's Under-15s (Junior) won the Marveld Cup in the Netherlands, beating Manchester United, PSV, Ajax, Feyenoord and Arsenal on their way to the trophy.

So if the best teams from Holland and England can't stop RTD, what chance do the lads from County Armagh have?

Ex-Manchester United man McGibbon said: "They're obviously a very talented team, you can see that from the amount of competitions they've won and some of the scores they've recorded. I know they recently beat Benfica 7-0, which is particularly impressive.

"Right to Dream are a big, strong team for their age group but by all accounts they can really play as well.

"But this is what the Milk Cup is all about. It gives our boys the chance to test themselves against styles of football they haven't experienced before.

"However, the boys know that they have two important games before that.

"I think it's important that we hit the ground running and put in a good display against Swindon Town, before the match against Tyrone on the Tuesday."

Since leaving his post as manager of Newry City, McGibbon has focused on coaching the internationals of tomorrow.

He believes the Dale Farm Milk Cup can aid a player's development. Before moving to United, McGibbon played in the tournament, first for Craigavon Boys and then as a guest for Ballymoney United.

"What we really want to develop are players who can make decisions for themselves," he said.

"Tactics and formations have become a big part of the game in recent years but it's still important for players to make the correct decisions for themselves. For me, the lads who go on to become top players are the ones who make good decisions, and quickly.

"In Northern Ireland, our boys always work hard and compete. We're generally fairly well organised, but the Milk Cup gives us the opportunity to play against boys from other countries who perhaps approach the game in a different manner."

McGibbon believes his native Mid-Ulster area remains a passionate football hub.

"We've a talented group of players, including a few who are a year young for this age group. There are a number of lads who were part of the Armagh City side that won the National League," added McGibbon.

"Armagh and Mid-Ulster are a real hotbed of football in Northern Ireland. When I played with the international team, I was one of six lads from the Craigavon area.

"We've produced many great players and we've a number of top clubs. Even recently, Shane Lavery joined Everton from Glenavon."

While McGibbon is in charge of the Armagh Junior team, former Loughgall midfielder Andy Smith is looking after the Premier side.

They too have three difficult games, with Real Sociedad next Monday, Alset of Colombia on the Tuesday and Otago of Japan on the Wednesday.

The 33rd Dale Farm Milk Cup tournament begins with the traditional parade of competing teams through Coleraine on Sunday, concluding with finals night at the Ballymena Showgrounds on Friday, July 31.

In addition to the title sponsors, the Dale Farm Milk Cup is supported by the Causeway Coast and Glens Council, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Tourism Northern Ireland, DCAL, Mitre and The Beautiful Game, with BBC Sport NI as broadcast partners.

Belfast Telegraph

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