COLERAINE was packed last Sunday for the parade of the teams for the Milk Cup - but the opening ceremony, performed by Everton manager David Moyes, had been upstaged just over 24 hours earlier by the Premier boys from County Tyrone.
The competition had kicked off on the Saturday, with the county teams hosting their first games in their ‘home towns’ to mark the 30th anniversary.
And, in Castlederg, Tyrone added to the historic occasion by defeating Manchester United 2-0 in the Premier Section game staged at Darragh Park, home of Dergview FC in North Tyrone.
Goals from skipper Jamie Glackin and Cathal McShane stunned the Red Devils youth, their first ever defeat by a county side.
Triumphant boss Tommy Canning beamed: “It’s a super result and it was a superb performance from the boys.
“By no means was it a smash and grab or that we sat in and hit them on the counter-attack. We went with a game-plan, pressing them high - and sticking to it was what got us the result.
“I thought we limited them to very few chances and goalkeeper Jack Boggs was superb. The players were ecstatic. They dared to believe that they could do the impossible - and they did it.”
“When the ball hit the back of the net I turned around and saw the stand and nearly collapsed. I couldn’t believe it, my mind just went blank, but I’m over the moon” the Omagh lad admitted.
“The result feels so much better after what happened last year when Tyrone lost 7-0 to Man Utd. I think having the game at home helped massively.”
Tyrone: Jack Boggs; Eamon Ferguson; Kris Lowe; Shay Duffy; Jarlath O’Rourke (Matty Young, 25); Conal Crawford (Sammy McKelvey, 58); Jamie Glackin (cpt, Marc McConnell, 70+1); Gary Henderson; Ross Lavery (Cathal McShane, 52); Aaron Patterson; Tom Carlin (Eoin Teague, 65). Subs not used: Sean Connolly; Luke Donaghy.
Manchester United: Pierluigi Gollini; Ryan McConnell (Joshua Harrop, 54); Louis Rowley; Liam Grimshaw; Nicholas Ioannou (Patrick McNair, 19); Benjamin Pearson; James Weir; Joseph Rothwell; Sam Byrne; James Wilson; Andreas Pereira (Sean Goss, 60).
The Tyrone boys showed they were no flash in the pan as they followed up with a 3-2 win against Armagh in Broughshane.
Glackin was on target again, this time with a brace, while Gary Henderson also scored.
But they missed out in a place in the semi-finals after losing 3-1 to Californian side South Coast Strikers in Portrush.
Aaron Patterson gave Tyrone a second half lead, chesting down a goalkeeper punch-out, before taking a quick touch and firing into the bottom corner.
The game was turned on its head within five minutes, however, as Strikers skipper Robert Sagel rose to head home from a corner and was on target again from the penalty spot. Abu Danladi netted late on, his fifth goal in two days, on the counter-attack.
Glackin had a chance to reduce the arrears in the dying embers, but saw his penalty well saved.
“I think there has been a bit of a struggle to come down from the United game” said Canning. “That was maybe more the case on Monday, than it was against South Coast.
“Once we had gone a goal up I thought we would go on to win, but they hit back very quickly. The lads have done really well and we are pleased with their efforts.”
And Tyrone’s hopes of lifting the Milk Cup Globe were dashed by Senegal’s Etoile Lusitana in Coleraine, the side undone by breakaway goals either side of halftime.
“It is bitterly disappointing, but at least the boys proved they were more than a match for Etoile in the second half. I thought we came into the game and stamped some authority on it.
“We just got caught by two sucker-punches which can happen to you at this level” said, Canning admitting that their fourth game in a week had taken its toll.
For Tyrone that meant another enticing showdown against Manchester United in a Globe third-fourth place play-off.
“I was hoping it wouldn’t be United again. It will be very tough after the week we have had. So we have one more job to do and we would love to finish it on a positive note.”
Alas, the slide continued and the heroics and headlines of the opening day were replaced by disappointment in the last outing as the Manchester United lads gained a meaure of revenge.
The game ended all-square with four goals shared, but the United lads held their nerve to win 4-2 on penalties.
No joy for juniors
Playing Ipswich Town in their opener was always going to be a tough ask for Tyrone’s junior team.
And so, indeed, it proved as strikes from Cemal Ramadan and man of the match Kundai Benyu ensured the Tractor Men got their Milk Cup campaign off to a fine start at Mountjoy United’s Lisnagirr Road ground.
Tyrone: Tom McDermott; Kyle Deery (Mark Rankin, 47); Lorcan Mallon; Dylan King; Ryan McAleer; William Donaghy; Ben Hall; Ryan Coleman (Joshua Graham, 37); Andrew Gilfillan (Ryan Moore, 45); Shea Gordon (Mark Megarry,60); James Edgar. Subs not used: Patrick Molloy; Ben Sproule; Conn Kilpatrick.
Ipswich Town: Samuel McDermid; Joshua Emanuel (Harry Daly, 43); Matthew Rose; Kundai Benyu; George Fowler (cpt); Max Melanson (James Baughurst, 39); Nicholas Ingram (Ronaldo Jones, 52); Cemal Ramadan; Chris Smith (Sonny Howard, 60); Travis Cole; Isaac Maynard.
Next up for the U15s was a match against Hapoel Haifa and Paul Kee’s Tyrone lads kept their slim qualifying hopes alive with a 3-0 victory at Roe Mill, courtesy of two early strikes from Joshua Graham who had been called up after that opening defeat and a header from captain Ben Hall.
In the final tie, Armagh raced to a 3-0 halftime lead over Tyrone with goals from Andrew Hoey, Patrick Jordan and Shane McNamee. Tyrone hit back via Lorcan Mallon and Ryan Coleman to give the Armagh boys a tense finale, but they couldn’t get the equaliser.
And there was no luck either for the Tyrone lads in the Bowl semi-finals, when they went down 4-3 on penalty-kicks to Swindon Town after a 1-1 draw.