MILK CUP FOOTBALL HOLDERS RETURN TO DEFEND MILK CUP TITLES

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Mexico and Brentford are returning to defend their Milk Cup titles this summer.

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 will feature four teams this year. Mexico, the 2011 winners Denmark and the two-time champions USA will join hosts Northern Ireland in a 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 will be up against Mersey giants Everton and Liverpool in the Junior section.

The Japan national squad are also on their way plus Equador’s Barcelona Sporting club, California based Strikers FC and the winners of a qualifying competition in Colina, Chile.

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

“In addition to the six County teams from Northern Ireland we have three from the Republic. Cavan and Monaghan will be represented as will North Dublin Schools and Dundalk.”

The English line up also includes Southampton, Watford, Swindon Town and Plymouth Argyle.

The draw will take 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 will be Friday, August 2, at Ballymena Showgrounds.

The Milk Cup is 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.