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Armagh's dream Milk Cup draw: Liverpool and Rangers

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Having a laugh: fun guy Dion Dublin put a smile on the face of the Milk Cup yesterday as he made the draw with Dale Farm's Jason Hempton and Ciara McStravick

Having a laugh: fun guy Dion Dublin put a smile on the face of the Milk Cup yesterday as he made the draw with Dale Farm's Jason Hempton and Ciara McStravick

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

Having a laugh: fun guy Dion Dublin put a smile on the face of the Milk Cup yesterday as he made the draw with Dale Farm's Jason Hempton and Ciara McStravick

It was complicated, but in the end yesterday's draw produced the usual array of sensational matches to look forward to in this summer's Dale Farm Milk Cup.

The boys from County Armagh landed the dream draws they all wanted. In the Junior Section, they will face Liverpool and Rangers who will subsequently play each other in a surefire crowd-puller. And the Orchard County under-16s will face holders Manchester United in the Premier Section.

There are no groups this year with performances in the opening three games producing a pecking order among the 24 teams, from which the top four will progress to the semi-finals of the Milk Cup and the remainder into subsidiary competitions, six in the Premier and seven in the Junior.

Organisers insist the feast of football across the north coast, leading up to finals night at Ballymena Showgrounds on Friday, August 1 will become easier to follow when fixture lists and kick-off times are released this weekend. Kick off is Monday, July 28.

Last year's Junior winners Everton will be looking to repeat their 2013 success after being drawn against Middlesbrough and Brazil's SC Corinthians.

County Down's strong Junior side will face fierce opposition in the form of 2012 Junior winners Brentford and Scottish side Queen of the South.

In the Premier Section, County Armagh coaches and former Irish League stalwarts, Darren Murphy and Dean McCullough, left the draw hoping hat their glamour ties against Liverpool, Rangers and Manchester United will help to net them a sponsor, after a fruitless search so far.

County Tyrone have been pitted against another big-name European side, Benfica of Portugal, along with Club America from Mexico, while County Down have drawn Partick Thistle and the Craig Bellamy Foundation, founded by the Welsh star in Sierra Leone.

County Fermanagh will face Brentford and Lusaka from Zambia while County Londonderry find themselves up against 2012 runners-up Newcastle United, Funabashi of China and Dublin's Cherry Orchard.

The draw was streamed live to a worldwide audience by BBC Sport NI through its website.

Former England, Aston Villa and Manchester United striker Dion Dublin did the honours at W5 at the Odyssey in Belfast and he, too, proved a hugely entertaining draw, bringing the packed house down in a knockabout interview with BBC's Jackie Fullerton.

"This is a competition that has thrived over three decades because it has sustained its reputation for attracting quality clubs from across the globe and offering them the highest level of competition available," said Dublin, who regrettably never played at the Milk Cup.

Now a TV football pundit, he added: "I never had the opportunity to play in a tournament of this stature, but I know a lot of big players have done in the past.

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"I am not surprised when I read some of the names of players who have competed in the event over the years. You have a back catalogue which I am sure is the envy of many."

The tournament itself has been rebranded this year. After 30 years under the Dairy Council banner, the link with the dairy industry continues with Dale Farm coming on board as the headline sponsor.

Dale Farm, commercial director Jason Hempton said it was pleasing for his company to enable the "hugely positive" event to continue its long association with the dairy industry.

"The competition brings together the elements of youth sport, fun and healthy lifestyle."

He added: "As a country we are small in size, but we have proved that we are also capable of big things, particularly in sport. Our company is similar with Northern Ireland roots and worldwide connections.

"We're delighted to become associated with the Milk Cup, a perfect fit for us and the tournament."

A big name star from the world of sport will help kick off the Dale Farm Milk Cup in Coleraine on Sunday, July 27. The event organisers are hoping to announce their star guest soon for the impressive welcome parade of competing teams through the centre of the town.

In addition to title sponsors Dale Farm, Northern Ireland's largest dairy company, the Dale Farm Milk Cup is supported by the Councils of Coleraine, Ballymena, Derry City, Ballymoney and Limavady, Legea (ball sponsors), with BBC Sport NI as broadcast partners.

Tournament chairman Victor Leonard revealed that several exciting innovations are planned to expand the event even further in the future.

Belfast Telegraph


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