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SuperCupNI: Seaton thrilled as Antrim set up big finale with Manchester United

Local boys relishing test in bid for back-to-back crowns

By Keith Bailie

County Antrim will take on the might of Manchester United in today's SuperCup NI final at the Ballymena Showgrounds.

Holders Antrim booked their place in the final with a 2-0 win over Premier League academy side Southampton at Seahaven, with goals from Dale Taylor and Cameron Stewart.

Looking ahead to today's showpiece final, manager Stefan Seaton said: "The players deserve immense credit. They managed the game superbly well, considering they are young players.

"We looked comfortable in the game and deserved the win against a very good Southampton team who had done well throughout the week.

"Now we have Manchester United which is brilliant. These are the games you want.

"No disrespect to other teams, but you don't want to be playing clubs that you are familiar with over here. You want to challenge yourself against different styles of football.

"Manchester United have a big name and reputation, but we will give it our best and see where it takes us.

"We embrace these games. This is where we want to be, playing in finals against big opposition.

"The main thing is that we go out and enjoy it and give it our best shot. If we do that then I will be happy."

At the Coleraine Showgrounds, Tommy Martin's young United side recorded a 2-0 win over County Armagh.

Martin said: "It wasn't great on the eye. It was a physical, long ball game. But the important thing is that we won it, and the players will now experience playing in front of a big crowd.

"Back home, there is a lot of pretty football in academy football so this tournament gives the players a different experience. The boys struggled with it in the first game against Londonderry and suffered from some nerves, but they've improved as the week has gone on. Playing against different styles of football is important for player development.

"I know we can play better than that.

"I don't know a lot about County Antrim, but they've defeated Southampton so they are obviously a very good team."

It took Manchester United just 80 seconds to open the scoring. George Walters, who has impressed throughout the week, used his pace to burst into the box and drill a shot towards goal.

Fortunately for Walters, Armagh's Sean Conlan deflected the ball beyond the reach of his own goalkeeper, Conner Byrne.

While Walters was awarded the goal, in the professional game it would surely go down as an own goal.

United almost scored again in the 23rd minute. A corner-kick was headed across goal by George Wyatt, but Michael Mellon was unable to convert at the back post when he looked certain to score.

Armagh had the ball in the net just before the half-time break after a scramble in the box, but the referee's assistant was quick to spot that Reece Emerson had been in an offside position.

Oisin Conaty came within a whisker of equalising a minute into the second half. The Armagh man volleyed a cross just past goalkeeper Daniel Polakowski's post.

Emerson had a golden opportunity in the sixth minute of the new half, but he bundled the ball wide from close range.

But it was Manchester United who scored the second and final goal of the semi-final.

A defensive mix-up allowed Manni Norkett to flick the ball beyond the reach of Byrne from around 10 yards. It was enough to settle the game.

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