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Hunter calls in star names for Antrim

By Keith Bailie

David Miskelly, William Murphy, Andy Hunter, David Larmour and Matthew Tipton - it sounds like a top-class veteran five-a-side team, but the young footballers of County Antrim will be hoping their quintet of coaches can guide them to Dale Farm Milk Cup glory.

Hunter will manage the County Antrim Premier side while his old Linfield team-mate Murphy will act as assistant.

Portadown goalkeeper Miskelly is the county's goalkeeping coach, while Ballymena forward Tipton and ex-Linfield striker Larmour are also on the coaching staff.

Manager Hunter explained why he opted for such a star-studded line-up.

"I wanted boys who know their stuff and I don't think anyone can argue that Tippy, Winkie and big Miskelly aren't clued in," he said.

"We've all got great playing experience and we've all either recently retired or we're still playing, so we all know how to relate to young players and hopefully they will respect us because of our playing achievements.

"I wanted to work with guys who had played football in recent years as I wanted fresh coaching ideas, rather than bringing back guys who haven't been involved in 10 years and might try tactics from 10 years ago. Football is always evolving.

"That's not to say we're doing anything radical. Most of our players are knocking on the door of Irish League reserve sides and our training style is very similar to what they will get in the Irish League. We're providing continuity."

A notable name in the County Antrim squad list is that of Ballymena United wonderkid Matthew Shevlin. The 15-year-old hit the headlines last November when he scored on his senior debut in the County Antrim Shield.

Hunter believes Shevlin can star at the Milk Cup.

"Matthew Shevlin is unique in the sense that he's already played and scored in the Irish League, which is very rare for a Milk Cup Premier player," noted Hunter.

"I know Glenn Ferguson rates him very highly and sees him as a first-team squad player.

"So far for us, he has scored eight goals in four games so I think he can make a big impact at the Milk Cup.

"We've a lot of other great players too including Cormac Lawlor, who has captained the Northern Ireland schoolboys team. Most of our players are at one of Linfield, Cliftonville, Crusaders or Ballymena United, so they're all at a good standard already."

Antrim's Premier side will kick-off on Monday with a game against The Strikers before playing Tyrone on Tuesday and Japanese club Higashi Fukuoka on Wednedsay.

Hunter said: "I don't know an awful lot about the Strikers side from America but I know they've got a friendly against Crusaders' youth team at Seaview over the weekend, so I'm hoping to pop down and see that.

"I watched some of the Japanese side online and they look a good side. I believe they're like a college select side.

"Tyrone on Tuesday will be a tough game. All-county matches are like derby games, so it's one the boys are looking forward to."

Antrim's Junior side will play Donegal Schools, Zacatepec and Londonderry.

They will be managed by experienced youth coach Stefan Seaton, who guided his side to last year's final.

The 33rd Dale Farm Milk Cup tournament begins with the traditional parade of competing teams through Coleraine on Sunday, July 26, concluding with finals night at 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.

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