Milk Cup: Ollie Mullan's boys holding out for home comforts
Londonderry's lads might not have travelled as far as some of this year's Dale Farm Milk Cup teams, but the local county enjoyed last night's curtailed festivities in Coleraine just as much as their counterparts from France, Russia, America and Africa.
The county side, who have the luxury of playing their games close to home, loved every minute of the traditional Milk Cup opening ceremony at The Showgrounds - despite the weather dictating against participation in the traditional parade through the town.
Junior team manager Ollie Mullan said: "All the boys knew it was a big deal because they had talked to the older lads who had been there before, but I actually don't think they realised how big it was until they got there.
"It's a great thing for lads of this age, particularly from our county as all their mothers, fathers and friends were there to watch.
"Even though the weather wasn't great again this year, everyone really enjoyed it. We made sure the boys were well wrapped up because last year one of our lads caught the flu and missed the first three games!"
Although Derry are the home county, boss Mullan doesn't believe it gives them any sort of advantage.
"I don't think it really helps. How you do at this tournament comes down to how well you've prepared in eight weeks before the Milk Cup, not whether you've home advantage.
"I'm very happy with how our preparation has gone. All the lads are in good condition and they're looking forward to the start of the competition.
"We've had boys go across the water after playing for us in the Milk Cup, so I think we give them a good platform to showcase their talents."
Mullan's boys will start their campaign at noon at Roe Mill in Limavady with an intriguing fixture with Orange County Blues, an academy from southern California.
A scouting mission on Friday night means Mullan is well prepared for the Americans.
"OC Blues arrived in Northern Ireland at the end of last week and played a friendly against Ballymena United Under-17s on Friday night. They won 8-0 and they looked very impressive. As you would expect for an American side, they were very fit but they could also play. It will be a difficult opening game for us but we won't be changing our formation to suit them, we will just go out and play our own game."
Mullan's boys will face Premier League side Southampton tomorrow at Anderson Park (3.30pm) before tackling Co Antrim at the same venue on Wednesday.
"We've played both Southampton and Antrim in recent years, so we've a good idea of what they're about," added Mullan.
"Antrim are as good as most teams in the competition. Most of their boys are with Northern Ireland."