Celtic and Everton set to lock horns in Super Cup
EITHER Celtic or Everton will become the first ever winners of the SuperCupNI’s U21 tournament when the two clubs clash at the Ballymena Showgrounds on Saturday.
After a difficult couple of years that saw the famous youth tournament, formerly known as the Milk Cup, lose its two biggest crowd-pullers in Manchester United U17s and Northern Ireland U19s, the competition organisers launched a new U21 tournament with the aim of rejuvenating the famous competition.
The new U21 club competition, which has replaced the old U19 international section, will be completed on Saturday, with the premier section (U17) and junior section (U15) starting next Monday morning. Saturday’s final (5pm) will pit two famous clubs against one another and Everton’s 18-year-old captain Liam Walsh believes the new tournament has formed a vital part of the young Toffees’ pre-season.
Walsh was part of the Everton side that defeated Espanyol 1-0 at the Coleraine Showgrounds on Thursday night thanks to a first-half strike from Harry Charsley: “The SuperCupNI is a good opportunity to get rid of the cobwebs and play a few games before the league starts," the England youth international said.
“We’re just back from a week’s warm weather training in Spain, which was really tough. We were doing three training sessions a day, which really helped our fitness. Now, it’s about getting some minutes on the pitch. The SuperCup is good as it allows us to continue that work. In the semi-final, Espanyol were good on the ball and moved it well, as you would expect from a Spanish team, but we were able to match them, getting forward as often as possible.”
David Unsworth’s Everton will face a very different test on Saturday. The young Celts were hugely impressive on Thursday night in the semi-final at the Ballymena Showgrounds, coming from a goal behind to beat Real Sociedad 3-1 thanks to a brace from Kelvin Miller and a single strike from Jamie Lindsay.
The final will be preceded by a third-placed play-off between the Spanish duo of Real Sociedad and Espanyol at 2pm. The SuperCup will host its traditional parade through Coleraine, featuring players from both the junior and premier sections on Sunday. The opening ceremony will be held at the Coleraine Showgrounds, starting at 7pm. Actor and Coleraine FC supporter James Nesbitt will be the guest of honour.
Both the junior section and the premier sections will kick-off next Monday. The junior section will feature Rangers, Middlesbrough and Sheffield United, as well as teams from Africa, America, Mexico and Colombia. The stars of the premier section are likely to be Ghanian side Right to Dream, Newcastle United, Real Sociedad and Bolivian outfit O’Higgins.
However, keep an eye out for the Six-County sides. Last year, County Antrim made history by defeating Club America in the final.