Faulkner’s Premier team to take on global giants

County Londonderry Junior Section team are all set for the Milk Cup 2013
County Londonderry Junior Section team are all set for the Milk Cup 2013

There are a big few days ahead for the young footballing stars of the county.

Not only will they be gaining lifelong memories playing in the annual festival of football on the north coast but they will also get the opportunity to square up to some of the world’s best young footballing talent.

Gary Faulkner and his Premier side they face the daunting task of meeting not one but two of global football’s largest powers.

Russian side CSKA Moscow, Brazilian club Corinthians and Dubliners Bohemians make up the group for the local lads

CSKA Moscow are the reigning Russian league champions, their fifth title since 2004 and have produced some of the countries finest footballers.

While they are sure to provide a real test for the young Derry lads, the game they will most be looking forward to however is their clash with Brazilian power houses Corinthians.

The Sao Paulo club captured the Copa Libertadores in 2012 and have twice been World Club Champions having most recently claimed the title last year.

Among the star names closely associated with the club include Socrates, Dida and Roberto Carlos. Could the Premier team be lining out against future Brazilian internationals?

Corinthians are Brazil’s richest sports club, the largest outside Europe, commanding massive support across the country and Gary admits that it is a great honour to pit his wits against one of the games most powerful clubs.

“We are very much looking forward to it. It’s not often you get to play Russians, Brazilians and a team from Dublin on three consecutive days.”

Faulkner knows that he and his side face a daunting prospect meeting two of the global games biggest powers.

“We played CSKA Moscow at last year’s Milk Cup and they were an excellent side. They beat us 6-0 that day but this is a different age group and a different group of players so that shouldn’t have too much of an impact.

“Moscow are the club of the Russian Army and physically they are very strong. It’s a very tricky opening game.”

“Then we have to play the World Club Champions from last year so it doesn’t get much harder than that. They said the English invented the game and the Brazilians taught the world how to play it, so we’ll have a tough challenge there.”

Despite the prospect of playing some the world’s biggest clubs Gary still has ambitions on getting out of the group.

“If we can get a result in one of our opening two games, hopefully then we can take three points in the last game with Bohemians to give ourselves a chance.

“It’s going to be a challenge but it is eleven against eleven on a pitch so anything is possible.

“I’ve managed at Junior level before and the big difference between Junior and Premier is the difference in terms of physicality.

“We’ve been training three and sometimes four nights a week, but our players are only borrowed from other clubs for a few months. A lot of these professional teams are training with their players every day of the week.

“Hopefully the boys can do themselves and their county proud.”

The Junior side may not have as glamourous a draw as their older counterparts but they are eager to test themselves out against some of England’s best young talent.

Both Ipswich Town and Brentford are in their group along with local opponents County Antrim.

Manager David Reid has urged his young charges to enjoy the atmosphere and to take the chance of playing under the spotlight with both hands.

“The Junior Squad have been training hard and are very well prepared for the Tournament,” he said.

“We have three tough games at the start of the competition, Co. Antrim, Ipswich Town and Brentford who will all offer us different challenges.

“The boys are really excited now, they can’t wait for the competition to begin. I hope that the hard work pays off, the boys play to the best of their ability in all the games and enjoy the whole Milk Cup experience.’’