MILK CUP: County Antrim in search of double cream

Co Antrim's Matthew Shevlin celebrates
Co Antrim's Matthew Shevlin celebrates

County Antrim will be in both the Junior and Premier section semi-finals of the Dale Farm Milk Cup, tonight.

County Antrim booked their place in the last four with a win in Portrush. Japanese side Higashi gave them a fright by taking the lead with their first goal of the tournament, but Andy Hunter’s boys fought back to win 2-1.

Russian Giants CSKA Moscow booked their place in the semi-finals of the Dale Farm Milk Cup with a comprehensive 4-1 win over Londonderry in Ballymoney.

The Moscow side have a 100% record with wins over Malaga, Lusaka and Derry to their name. The Riada Stadium result ended Ollie Mullan’s side hopes of reaching the last four.

Last year the Russian reached the semi-finals before losing to French club Vendee.

Mexican side Club America defeated Californian side OC Blues 2-1 at Castlerock to book their place in the last four. That win saw them leapfrog Londonderry, O’Higgins and Right To Dream.

Real Sociedad also booked their place in the last four with an impressive 3-0 win over Alset at the Ballymena Showgrounds.

The one team most people expected to be in the semi-finals was Ghana side Right to Dream, but they crashed out of the Premier section when they lost 2-0 to American side Strikers.

Despite their Premier sides surprise defeat Right to Dream Academy Director Gareth Henderby was in positive form.

He believes the prestigious football school is a force for good in African.

Until yesterday’s wobble the boys from Ghana had taken the Dale Farm Milk Cup by storm.

It’s perhaps no surprise considering the residential academy have already won tournaments in England and Holland this year.

Henderby was keen to explain the Academy’s philosophy.

“The Academy was started 15 or 16 years ago by Tom Vernon when he moved to Ghana.

“I moved to Ghana around the same time and over the years it’s grown, and grown and grown.

“We have approximately 92 students in the academy just now with our first ever Girls’ Academy in Africa, too.

“We’ve grown into a world-class academy, which is backed up by our results.

“It’s a fully residential academy so we give the kids a good education as well. It is a Cambridge-accredited school so they basically go through the English education system. We have a world-class character development programme which is pretty unique.

“We place a lot of emphasis on everything we do with their education and school with that.”

Incredibly, the West African Academy scout over 20,000 players per age group.

“We always knew there was unbelievable potential in Ghana, with the raw talent in the country and all over West Africa where we have players from.

“It’s how you make that raw talent into world-class talent and we had to get the right structures in place to do that.

“We have a recruitment department who do a fantastic job. They recruit approximately 20,000 players a year for a new group to come into the academy.

“So from that 20,000 from all over Africa, it can be whittled down to 15 or 16.”

Chilean club O’Higgins missed out on the last four on goal difference. The South American side could only manage a 2-2 draw with Scottish club Motherwell in Portstewart.

Elsewhere, John Bailie’s County Down claimed their first win of the Milk Cup in Roe Mill. They defeated last year’s beaten finalists Vendee 3-1. Fermanagh lost 2-1 to Malaga, while Newcastle United beat Tyrone 4-0 and Armagh beat Otago 2-0.

After a horrible start to their Milk Cup experience, Zambia side Lusaka bounced back from their visas problems to claim their first win of the tournament. The Africans beat Glasgow club Partick Thistle 3-1 at Rugby Avenue.