Former Westlife singer Nicky Byrne will open the Dale Farm Milk Cup later this month, returning to a competition he played in on no less than three occasions.
The Dubliner is thrilled to be asked after an on air chat with broadcaster Alan Simpson.
Milk Cup fan Alan mentioned the tournament while interviewing Nicky on his Radio Ulster show only to be told that as a teenager the man who went on to become a global super star had competed at the event for Home Farm and Leeds United.
“That was when we thought we should try and get the ball rolling with an invite to Nicky to open this year’s competition,” said tournament chairman victor Leonard.
“Nicky has fond memories of his visits to the north coast and thanks to Alan we have been able to iron out the details.”
The star will head a parade of competing teams through Coleraine from the Diamond to the Showgrounds on Sunday, July 27.
Byrne is best known for his time as a member of the hugely successful Irish boyband, Westlife but his exceptional talents on the football field, saw him establish himself as a professional goalkeeper at a very young age.
He played for the Republic of Ireland at Under 15 and U-16 levels and at 18 was signed by Leeds United. During the 1995 Premier League season, following a suspension to second choice goalkeeper Mark Beeney, Nicky was named in the Leeds United first team squad to face Southampton in a Premier League game at Saints’ former ground The Dell. On his return to Ireland in 1997, he played for Shelbourne, Cobh Ramblers and St. Francis F.C.
He said: “I’m proud to be invited to open the Dale Farm Milk Cup. I played in the competition three times, twice with Home Farm and later with Leeds United.
“I have great memories of wonderful times competing at the tournament, playing matches at Portrush and Coleraine. We won the Plate competition with Home Farm, beating Everton in the final which made us all feel very proud.”
His love of music then led him to a career in the music industry. He joined Westlife in 1998, after successfully auditioning for Louis Walsh. The band retired in 2012 after 15 hugely successful years as one of the biggest boybands in the world. Westlife have sold over 50 million records worldwide, have had 14 number one singles, and seven number one albums.
His passion for football sees Nicky feature in the Soccer Aid fundraising game for UNICEF.
Last month Nicky’s team, captained by actor Michael Sheen and coached by Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, won 4-2 at Old Trafford with Nicky scoring a splendid goal along the way.
Meanwhile, money saving multi match tickets are now on sale for the tournament. The £25 adult ticket price has been frozen and enables fans to gain access to matches at seven enclosed venues for a flat fee (£10 for Under-16s).
The offer means that at Coleraine and Ballymena Showgrounds, Scroggy Road (Limavady), Riada Stadium (Ballymoney), Riverside Stadium (Drumahoe), Brandywell Stadium (Derry/Londonderry) and Seahaven (Portstewart), ticket holders are on a winner as they can take in as many games at those locations as they wish, in addition to Anderson Park (Coleraine) and Broughshane.
The tickets, available directly through the competition website atwww.dalefarmmilkcup.com, also give access to Finals Night at Ballymena Showgrounds for the three games on Friday, August 1st, beginning with the Junior showdown at 4pm.
In addition to title sponsors Dale Farm, Northern Ireland’s largest dairy company, the Dale Farm Milk Cup is supported by the five Council areas of Coleraine, Ballymena, Ballymoney and Limavady Borough Councils and Derry City Council, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, apparel sponsors Legea, the Sun newspaper and Dawson Whyte Insurance with BBC Sport NI as broadcast partners.