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Milk Cup Logo
|Founded||1995 — Elite
1983 — Premier
1985 — Junior
|Number of teams||6 — Elite
24 — Premier
24 — Junior
|2013 Milk Cup|
The Northern Ireland Youth Soccer Tournament, commonly known as the Milk Cup or the Dale Farm Milk Cup for sponsorship reasons, is an international youth football tournament held annually in Northern Ireland. The cup matches are mainly played in the North Coast area of Northern Ireland, with matches taking place in the towns of Portrush, Portstewart, Castlerock, Limavady, Coleraine, Ballymoney, Ballymena and Broughshane.
In October 2013, the Milk Cup organising committee and leader sponsors Dairy Council released a joint statement stating that the long-term sponsors Dairy Council would be withdrawing sponsorship. The official Facebook page for the competition revealed that the competition(s) would no longer be known as the Milk Cup.
The Milk Cup began in 1983 with sixteen teams participating at an Under 16 (Premier) level. Motherwell F.C. from Scotland were the first winners. It was founded by Jim Weir, Victor Leonard, George Logan and Bertie Peacock, one of the most famous football players from the region.
The competition was extended in 1985 when an extra age group, the Under 14 (Junior) section was introduced and again the first champions were from Scotland, as Rangers F.C. won the Milk Cup at that age level. The competition at both levels has grown in size and stature over the years, with teams increasingly travelling from all continents to compete. The Under 19 (Elite) section was introduced in 1995 with the Welsh finishing the tournament as winners. Traditionally, the finals are played at the Coleraine Showgrounds on the Friday evening.
Many current international footballers have taken part in the Milk Cup, players such as Charlie Davies, Jonathan Spector, Paul Scholes, and Wayne Rooney have all competed at some level in the Milk Cup. In the 2002 FIFA World Cup there were 30 Milk Cup veterans playing.
To celebrate the competition's silver jubilee, a friendly match took place between Northern Ireland and four-time junior section winners Everton F.C. at the Coleraine Showgrounds on 14 July 2007. Everton won the tie 2–0.
One of the key parts to the Milk Cup is the inclusion of six representative teams from each county of Northern Ireland - Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone. This system allows young players from across the province to compete against some of the best in the world at their age group.
Since 2005 the Milk Cup has been broadcast on BBC Northern Ireland, taking over from Ulster Television. This has led to much more media coverage as matches from Finals Night are broadcast on BBC Two Northern Ireland. Usually these are from the Premier and Elite section featuring highlights of the junior game which happens earlier in the afternoon. Some Milk Cup matches are broadcast on BBC Two Northern Ireland, made available to the rest of the UK via BBCi and BBC SPORT Website and some other Milk Cup matches are broadcast online at http://www.bbc.co.uk/northernireland/milkcup. The coverage is usually hosted by Stephen Watson, with commentary by BBC Commentators such as Jackie Fullerton, Michael McNamee, Paul Gilmour, Joel Taggart, Grant Cameron and punditry by John O'Neill, Gerry Armstrong and Oran Kearney over recent years.
- Official Milk Cup website
- BBC Sport NI at the Milk Cup - BBC Northern Ireland Milk Cup site
- BBC Blast NI at the Milk Cup
- "Milk Cup Chairman: Dairy Council backing was 'remarkable'". NI Milk Cup. 21 October 2013. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
- "Dale Farm new sponsor for Milk Cup". Coleraine Times. 28 February 2014. Retrieved 28 February 2014.