MIK CUP: Northern Ireland defeat China in Elite opener

Northern Ireland's Sean Mullan celebrates scoring against China
Northern Ireland's Sean Mullan celebrates scoring against China

Northern Ireland claimed an important win in the opening game of the Dale Farm Milk Cup – with Josh Doherty and Sean Mullan grabbing the goals.

Stephen Craigan’s men beat China 2-0 at the Ballymena Showgrounds in the Elite Section of the Milk Cup.

After the game a delighted Craigan said: “It’s a fantastic result for us because a lot of these lads are very young in their age group.

“A lot of them are one year younger than the Chinese lads and some of them are even two years younger.

“It’s actually not easy to play at home when you’re so young, particularly when you’re playing in front of your family and friends. It can add a lot of pressure to the game, but the boys coped with that well.

“We’re building for the future, here. It’s all about preparing the boys for the qualifying campaign for the next Under 19 European Championship. We want to win the Milk Cup, of course we do. It would give the players a lift, it would give the fans a lift and it would give me a lift, but our goals are long term.

“We want to give these lads the best possible education in football. We want to treat them as real internationals and pass onto them our knowledge from playing at international level. We’re determined to create players that will make Northern Ireland competitive in the future and the Milk Cup is a great starting point.”

Northern Ireland dominated the first half and the increasing pressure on the Chinese backline soon paid off.

A well rehearsed free kick routine saw Eoghan McCawl’s delivery headed across the face of goal at the back post and finished with aplomb by Doherty.

Right on the stroke of half time Northern Ireland doubled their advantage.

China had plainly failed to learn any lessons from the first goal, with another training ground rehearsed free kick routine culminating in a deft turn and finish from Sean Mullan.

Next up for the hosts is a clash with Mexico at the Coleraine Showgrounds on Wednesday, with China taking on Canada at the Brandywell.

Mexico lost their opening game of the campaign 2-0 to Canada.