Belfast Telegraph

SuperCupNI fixtures: Manchester United U23s to face Ballymena United as tournament kicks off

Star power: Players from Warrenpoint Town welcome Manchester United legend Nicky Butt to the Coleraine Showgrounds
Star power: Players from Warrenpoint Town welcome Manchester United legend Nicky Butt to the Coleraine Showgrounds

By Keith Baillie

Manchester United’s new first-team coach Nicky Butt launched the STATSports SuperCupNI at a rain-sodden Coleraine Showgrounds last night.

Despite the miserable weather, the parade and opening ceremony went ahead as planned with thousands of football fans lining the streets of Coleraine and taking shelter inside the Showgrounds. The five-day tournament will see 62 teams competing across 14 north coast venues.

Guest of honour Butt was promoted by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer from Under-23 manager into the first-team dugout earlier this month.

The 39-times-capped former England midfielder, who was part of the famous United side that won the Milk Cup in 1991 alongside Gary Neville and David Beckham, is in Northern Ireland to cast his eye over the club’s Under-15s, Under-21s and Under-23s who will all participate in this year’s event.

Butt said: “It’s an honour for me to be here. I have fond memories of winning this competition in 1991 with the group that would eventually be known as the Class of ‘92.

“Our experiences at the Milk Cup played a huge part in our development, as well as helping us to form a winning mentality which we carried into the first team.”

United’s Under-21s kick-started the festival of football at the Showgrounds on Saturday evening when they recorded a comfortable 4-0 victory over Rangers in a one-off fixture.

Glengormley man Ethan Galbraith scored a stunning goal to open United’s account.

The youth international is highly regarded by both club and country, with both Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill and United coach Butt watching on from the stands.

Arnau Puigma and Di’shon Bernard  also registered for Quinton Fortune’s United, with the unfortunate Rangers defender Nathan Patterson scoring an own goal.

Tonight, Ballymena United face Manchester United Under-23s at The Ballymena Showground in another one-off challenge match.

Sky Blues boss David Jeffrey, who is a former Old Trafford trainee, said: “This is a tremendous opportunity for the talent we have at our club. They will have the challenge of facing the best talent when you consider the calibre of player at Manchester United.

“I have fond memories of my time at United as a 14-year-old schoolboy, on through as an apprentice and then as a young pro. Unfortunately, I didn’t go on but I am proud to have been there and the club blazer still hangs in my wardrobe. It is one of my most cherished possessions.” 

The Old Trafford side will be managed by Neil Wood.

United will also participate in the Junior section of the tournament. Today, they play American club Strikers in Broughshane at 5pm.

Also in the Junior section, fellow Americans Global Premier Soccer face Arsenal at Scroggy Road in Limavady (6.15pm), while holders County Antrim take on Dundalk Schools in Broughshane at midday. Rangers play County Armagh at the Riada in Ballymoney (7pm), while Leeds United and Dundee United clash at Scroggy Road (2.30pm).

In the Premier section, John Bailie’s County Down side will be hoping to go one better than last year when they lost to B Italia in the final. They kick-start their campaign with a game against 2017 winners Right to Dream in a 3pm kick-off at Ulster University’s Coleraine campus.

Bailie said: “We came very close to winning the tournament last year but each year you start from scratch. This year we have a very difficult start against a team from Ghana who are always competitive at this level. As a group we have worked hard in training over the last eight weeks, so we are well prepared for the tournament.”

Also in the Premier section, Valencia play County Fermanagh at the Coleraine Showgrounds (3pm), County Londonderry face Newcastle United at Scroggy Road (4.15pm) and Celtic take on Global Premier Soccer at Seahaven in Portstewart (7pm).

The Minor section (Under-13s) was a big hit last year. It returns this year featuring 11 Irish League sides, as well as local boys’ clubs and teams from America, China and the Republic of Ireland. Holders Greenisland start their campaign against Glenavon at the Riada (2pm).

Minor Section

11am: Dungannon United v Ballinamallard United (University 1); 11.30am: Glentoran v Bertie Peacock Youths (Anderson Park, Coleraine); Ballyclare Colts v Finn Harps (University 2); Warrenpoint v Beijing (Castlerock); 12pm: Linfield v Portadown (The Warren, Portstewart); Ballymena United v Larne (Clough); 2pm: Glenavon v Greenisland (Riada 2, Ballymoney); 3pm: Coleraine v Global Premier Soccer (Anderson Park, Coleraine).

Junior Section

12pm: Co Fermanagh v Charlton Athletic (Broughshane); Co Antrim v Dundalk SL (Broughshane); 12.30pm: Co Tyrone v Bracknell Town (Parker Ave, Portrush); 2.30pm: Leeds United v Dundee United (Scroggy Road, Limavady); 3pm: Pumas Unam v Wallsend BC (Ahoghill); Cherry Orchard v Colina (Castlerock); 4pm: Co Londonderry v Plymouth Argyle (Seahaven, Portstewart); 5pm: Manchester United v Strikers (Broughshane); 6.15pm: Arsenal v Global Premier Soccer (Scroggy Rd, Limavady); 7pm: Rangers v Co Armagh (Riada Stadium, Ballymoney); Co Down v O’Higgins (Coleraine Showgrounds).

Premier Section

1.30pm: Atlante v Riseisha HS (University 2); 2.30pm: Edmonton FC v Hull City (Broughshane); 3pm: Valencia v Co Fermanagh (Coleraine Showgrounds); NC Elite v Chippenham Town (Clough); Co Antrim v Deportes Iguique (Riada Stadium, Ballymoney); Right to Dream v Co Down (University 1); 4pm: Co Tyrone v Vendee (Parker Ave, Portrush); 4.15pm: Co Londonderry v Newcastle Utd (Scroggy Rd, Limavady); 5.30pm: Strikers v Co Armagh (Castlerock); 7pm: Celtic v Global Premier Soccer (Seahaven, Portstewart).

Challenge Match

7.30pm: Ballymena United v Manchester United U23 (The Showgrounds, Ballymena)

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