Belfast Telegraph

SuperCupNI: First Choice Soccer flourishing after Wilson and Kavanagh stepped in to save the day

By Keith Bailie

Former Irish League stars Mick Kavanagh and Frankie Wilson have managed to turn a SuperCupNI nightmare into a dream come true for a group of young footballers.

Former Omagh Town man Wilson is managing First Choice Soccer in the Premier Section, while ex-Ards player Kavanagh is in charge of the Junior side.

First Choice Soccer were supposed to be a team of travelling North Americans, but the football group ran by former Cliftonville man Phil McNamara were unable to get a full squad together, so Wilson and Kavanagh were drafted in with a week’s notice.

The two youth coaches called up a number of talented young players from either side of the Irish border, combined them with the handful who did make the journey, and cobbled together a team just a few days before the tournament.

Kavanagh explained: “Phil rang me up and explained the situation. I run the Under-15s at Home Farm, and I know all about the Milk Cup, so I jumped at the chance. I brought six of my own lads up and then we got another few players in the south.

“We also have three boys from Northern Ireland and the five North Americans — three from the States and two from Canada.”

You might expect a group of lads who had never met to struggle, but the two sides have lost only one of their four games.

Kavanagh said: “We knew what we were getting ourselves into. We arrived on Friday and on Saturday we played a friendly against Chivas. We then played Sheffield United on Monday and gave a good account of ourselves. Their manager John Pemberton was very complimentary.

“We gave away two bad goals but that was more to do with unfamiliarity than anything else.

“We then picked up a point against County Londonderry on Tuesday, and we played well.

“Then we face Rangers on Wednesday night.”

Although First Choice Soccer’s original plan fell through, Kavanagh believes their efforts should be commended. He said: “I knew First Choice Soccer had come over for the last couple of years, bringing lads over from America to try to give them a flavour of football in another country. It’s a very noble idea.

“I don’t know what happened to the other players who were meant to come but I jumped at the chance to bring my players.

“I’ve told them if they enjoy it and leave a better player and with a better understanding of what it takes to be an elite level footballer, then it is job done.

“The craic is flying; it doesn’t take long for 14 and 15-year-olds to have fun. They eat and train together and enjoy each other’s company. My biggest problem is trying to get them to go to bed.”

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