Curry out to help kids make it big
County Tyrone coach Eamon Curry says that he would rather produce one professional footballer than win this year's Dale Farm Milk Cup.
In recent years county sides have been getting closer to lifting the prestigious trophy - indeed Tyrone themselves only lost 1-0 to Manchester United in the Premier final two years ago, on the same day that Antrim went even closer when they lost to Everton on penalties in the Junior Section.
Tyrone's Premier manager believes that the real prizes aren't handed out on finals night at the tournament.
"If you gave me the choice between winning the Milk Cup and no players making it professionally and losing three or four games and one player making the grade, I'd rather a player made it," Curry said.
"For me, the Milk Cup in particular and youth football in general isn't about results.
"When it comes to senior football it's a results driven game, but at youth level it's about developing talent and helping kids become the best player they can become.
"A number of Tyrone lads have played in the Milk Cup and then moved into the professional game, such as Liam Donnelly who is now with Fulham. That's what gives me real satisfaction."
Curry, who also coaches at the IFA's flagship Club NI programme, is fearful that too much is being asked of today's young sportsmen.
"I think all county coaches would like more contact time with the kids as you really don't have much time between the end of the club season and the start of the Milk Cup to prepare," he said.
"I think we've a problem in this country as we have a small population and a limited pool of talented youngsters.
"Every sport is fighting over the same kids and some young lads are competing in a number of different sports.
"At primary school age kids should be encouraged to play as many different sports as possible but by the age of 12 or 13, you should pick a sport and focus on it.
"Within football I think we need better cohesion between the different bodies as kids are training with the clubs, the schools, their counties and in some cases with Club NI."
To avoid burnout, Curry and Tyrone have reduced the size of their Milk Cup programme.
"We reduced the process this year as we wanted to take some of the pressure of the boys. Last year we held the trials in November, while this year it wasn't until early April.
"These kids still have school to worry about while most of them are playing in the National League for their clubs. Some lads are involved in other sports, It's an awful lot for kids to contend with.
"We're very wary of burn out. Kids are coming to us after a long hard season, at a stage were they really could do with a rest, so we try not to make the Milk Cup too taxing for them.
"All our training is done with the ball and is about tactics and shape. If your sessions are sharp that should be enough to keep the lads fit."
County Tyrone will face Ghana's Right To Dream on Monday before taking on County Antrim on Tuesday and the Newcastle United on Wednesday.
Tyrone's Juniors, who are managed by Crusaders midfielder Richard Clarke, will play Liverpool, Armagh and GPS Bayern in the group stages.