Pro teams await both Down sides in Milk Cup group stages

County Down's Premier side for the Milk Cup, including Lewis Houston (bottom left).

County Down's Premier side for the Milk Cup, including Lewis Houston (bottom left).

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County Down’s Premier and Junior teams have some exciting games ahead during next week’s Dale Farm Milk Cup.

The Premier side, including Banbridge lad Lewis Houston, have been handed a tough group that includes last year’s Globe champions Club America of Mexico, last year’s Premier finalists Vendee from France and Scottish Premiership side Motherwell’s Premier team.

The County Down Junior side including Lee Bailie (bottom row on the left) and Jack Chambers (bottom row, three from the right).

The County Down Junior side including Lee Bailie (bottom row on the left) and Jack Chambers (bottom row, three from the right).

County Down coach and media man Rory Carson spoke to the Milk Cup website ahead of the campaign.

He said: “Club America are always excellent on the ball and have been very impressive in recent years, and you would expect Vendee to be strong again.

“Motherwell are a professional outfit and will no doubt have lads in their team who are on full-time deals - John (Bailie, Premier coach) and his boys will certainly have their work cut out.

“However, considering how well drilled and organised his sides are, you would be foolish to rule out an upset.”

Meanwhile, the Down junior panel, including local players Jack Chambers and Lee Bailie, will takes on Strikers from USA who have impressed at the MIlk Cup in the past, Donegal Schools and most notably Brentford.

“It will be fascinating to see how they get on,” an optimistic Carson told the Milk Cup website.

“They will be as good as any side in the competition, but winning the Milk Cup or even progressing is about a lot more than simply being a strong team.

“Luck, the effect of injuries and how the players adapt to a pressurised environment all play an important role, but it is safe to say that both managers will fancy their chances”.

Carson also spoke of his delight at the two teams’ performances during their warm-up schedule.

He said: “The pitches (at Down’s training camp in Crossgar) are fantastic, and we have our own clubhouse which really adds an element of professionalism to our approach.

“Between John Bailie’s Premier side and Davy Bryson’s Junior outfit we have only recorded two defeats which bodes well.”

The local Down lads are bidding to follow in the footsteps of several of the predecessors who have come through the county’s ranks to go on the bigger and better things.

Those include Linfield stars and Banbridge twins Andrew and Aaron Burns, alongiwth their Blues’ team-mate Jamie Mulgrew.

Also former Down players are Northern Ireland internationals Stephen Craigan and Josh Magennis, not to mention former Linfield striker Peter Thompson, Crusaders’ Stephen Cockcroft and Carrick Rangers’ Conor McCloskey.

FIXTURES

PREMIER SECTION

Monday 27th July - Club América v Co Down in Broughshane, Ballymena (5pm)

Tuesday 28th July - Co Down v Motherwell at Rugby Avenue, Coleraine (5pm)

Wednesday 29th July - Co Down v Vendee at Roe Mill, Limavady (3.30pm)

JUNIOR SECTION

Monday 27th July - Co Down v Brentford in Clough, Ballymena (12 noon)

Tuesday 28th July - Co Down v Donegal SL at Anderson Park, Coleraine (12 noon)

Wednesday 29th July - Strikers v Co Down at Riada Stadium (2), Ballymoney (12 noon)