Ian Rush says…

Football and milk have shared a long and enduring relationship. The Milk Marketing board (as was) was keen to promote the health-giving properties of milk via the medium of sport, and who better to do it than athletic, healthy footballers.

The Football League cup was known as the Milk Cup between 1982 and 1986, and those of you over a certain age will remember the Ian Rush/Accrington Stanley milk advert fondly.

Besides the League Cup/Milk Cup, there has been another competition running in Northern Ireland, sponsored by the Milk Marketing Board for Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Milk Cup is an international youth football tournament held annually. 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.

From Wikipedia:


Eusebio was a guest at one of the Milk Cup launches. Also picutred are Sean Curneen (left) and George Henderson (right) former chairman and secretary of the Tyrone Milk Cup Association – See more at:

“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.


The world’s most recognisable footballer, David Beckham captained the 1991 Milk Cup winning Manchester United team

“Many current international footballers have taken part in the Milk Cup, players such as Keith Gillespie, David Beckham,  Ryan Giggs, Steve McManaman, Steve Staunton,  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.”

From the official NI Milk Cup website, “The History of the Milk Cup“:


The inaugural winners of the Milk Cup – Motherwell in 1983

“Who would have thought that the Northern Ireland Milk Cup would have become such a magnificent event, one which is eagerly anticipated by football people all over the British Isles and farther afield?

“It was all very much an experiment in 1983 with eight Ulster teams and an equal number of visitors including the Algerians and a side from Coleraine’s twin town of la Roche-sur-Yon in France.

“Scottish stars Motherwell were the name on everyone’s lips that year after Irish FA president Harry Cavan declared the tournament open. Stephen Connors was the young lad to emerge with all the plaudits, scoring 12 goals for the Scots, three in the 5-0 win over hosts Coleraine in the final.”



Milking it

“The Mexicans won the Elite crown last year beating Denmark in the final while Brentford were impressive 2-0 winners over five-time Junior champions Everton.

“The Elite competition [featured] four teams this year. Mexico, the 2011 winners Denmark and the two-time champions USA [joined] hosts Northern Ireland in [the] round robin competition.

“It has been four years since Northern Ireland last won with a squad that included Corry Evans, Josh Megennis Billy Kee and Will Grigg along with Cliftonville’s Irish League winning goalkeeper Conor Devlin, who also competed with Manchester United at the tournament and Coleraine defender Howard Beverland.

“Boss Stephen Robinson will be eager to see this year’s crop of hopefuls emulate the achievements of 2009 when Northern Ireland landed a third Elite success to join Paraguay as the most successful national side in the competition’s history with three triumphs.

“Brentford [were] up against Mersey giants Everton and Liverpool in the Junior section.

“The Japan national squad [also competed] plus Equador’s Barcelona Sporting club, California based Strikers FC and the winners of a qualifying competition in Colina, Chile.

“There [was] a nice combination of international, cross channel and local teams in the Junior section,” says Milk Cup secretary Jim Weir.


Milk spray

“In addition to the six County teams from Northern Ireland [there were] three from the Republic. Cavan and Monaghan [was] represented as [was] North Dublin Schools and Dundalk.”

“The English line up also [included] Southampton, Watford, Swindon Town and Plymouth Argyle.

“The draw [took] place on Tuesday, April 30, at W5 in the Odyssey Complex, Belfast, with the traditional welcome parade of participating teams in Coleraine on Sunday, July 28. Finals night [was on] Friday, August 2, at Ballymena Showgrounds.

“The Milk Cup [was] sponsored by the Dairy Council for Northern Ireland and is supported by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, BBC Sport NI and the four Council areas of Coleraine, Ballymena, Ballymoney and Limavady.”