Manchester United’s Paddy McNair is coming home to help organisers launch this summer’s Dale Farm Milk Cup.
The Northern Ireland international defender will make the draw for this year’s international youth football tournament in Belfast on Tuesday, May 26.
The Ballyclare man’s rapid progress through the ranks at Old Trafford since his first appearance at the Dale Farm Milk Cup in 2011 has been remarkable, so much so that United boss Louis van Gaal has fast-tracked him into his first team squad.
“I’m proud to be asked to make the Milk Cup draw,” says the 20-year-old.
“I played in the competition with United two years in succession and it was a fantastic experience.”
McNair is pleased that the Red Devils will again be represented at the Premier tournament, making their 27th consecutive appearance.
“It makes me proud to see the Milk Cups won by the club displayed in the trophy room at Old Trafford.
“That alone indicates how much prestige is placed on the competition at Old Trafford.”
United have been to 12 finals, winning six titles and will this year be attempting to become the first team ever to secure three successive victories after triumphs over County Tyrone in 2013 and French club Vendee last year.
“The competition continues to play an important role in the development of our young players,” says Dave Bushell, head of education and welfare at Old Trafford.
“We believe the quality of teams at the tournament is exceptional and provides a variety of challenges for the players.”
Jim Sandford, Dale Farm Milk Cup publicity officer, says: “We have tried to improve the mix of teams again this year but Manchester United’s decision to come back again is a massive boost for us.
“The club has a huge following in Northern Ireland and the support for their teams every year in our competition is incredible.”
McNair, spotted by United as an 11-year-old at Ballyclare Colts, made one appearance as a substitute at the 2011 Dale Farm Milk Cup when the side reached the final but lost to impressive Qatar side Aspire. McNair featured again the following year in a squad that included Brazilian midfielder Andreas Pereira.
McNair went on to make his senior debut against West Ham United in September last year and he had to wait until March this year to make his international debut in the 1-0 friendly defeat by Scotland at Hampden Park.
Among the newcomers at the Dale Farm Milk Cup this year are Zacatepec from Mexico in the Junior event, continuing a strong link with the Central American country which the organising committee established more than a decade ago.
Another Mexican outfit, Club America, will contest the Premier section which has again attracted the popular Strikers from California and OC Blues who are based in the suburbs of Los Angeles.
Last year’s beaten finalists, Vendee, won universal support for the quality of their football and their officials were so pleased with the performance of the squad and the reception they received that they were one of the first to seek a place for 2015.
Japan will be represented by Higashi Fukuoka.
Long-time supporters of the youth football tournament Otago from New Zealand are back once more.
The draw for the Dale Farm Milk Cup will take place in W5 at the Odyssey on May 26.
The tournament gets underway with the traditional parade of competing teams through Coleraine city centre on Sunday, July 26, concluding with finals night at Ballymena Showgrounds on Friday, July 31.