County Antrim react to SuperCupNI 2017 Draw
Journalist Sam Gamble gets County Antrim's reaction to their draw for this year's SuperCupNI
Over the last number of years, County Antrim have been leading the way for the Northern Irish teams at the SuperCup NI.
In 2013, their Junior team became the first ever county side to make it to a final and in 2014 they were defeated by an all-conquering Corinthians in the Ballymena Showgrounds.
In 2015, they went one step better as Antrim created history by becoming the first and only county to lift the Junior or Premier crown as they defeated Club America from Mexico on penalties.
Looking ahead to 2017, Antrim have three tough challenges in the Premier and Junior sections.
Antrim's Juniors open the tournament with a clash against Southampton, before facing Down in an Ulster derby and conclude their qualifying campaign with a clash against American regulars Strikers FC.
Head coach of the County Antrim setup and Junior manager Stefan Seaton said it is a difficult draw, but said his side want to be challenged year in year out.
“When you go to the SuperCup NI you want to play the very best and challenge yourself.
“It is a difficult draw, but in my ten or so years involved we have always had tough draws and I can't remember ever having too many easy games at the competition.”
Antrim open their tournament against Southampton and Seaton said it is certain to be a tough opening game.
“Southampton's academy is one of the best in England and every summer they sell on players who have come through their youth system for big money.
“They will have their strongest team out on the opening day and they will be fresh and ready for it.
“We are at home and we are one of the host counties so we want to make that home advantage count.”
Day two throws up an intriguing Ulster derby for Seaton's side and they finish the competition with a tricky tie against the Strikers from California.
“We have had some really tough games against County sides over the years and it a game that both teams will know plenty about each other.
“We welcome those sort of challenges and we have a very good record in the competition in the Junior section and we want to do as well as we possibly can in those first three games.”
Seaton is joined in the Antrim dug-out by three established Irish Premier League stars with Ross Glendinning working as goalkeeping coach, with Ballymena defender Jim Ervin and former Warrenpoint Town player Dermot McVeigh working as coaches.
Antrim's Premier team, who are managed by former Irish League centre half Andy Hunter, have a tough start to their campaign.
They play Premier League Academy side Newcastle United and on day two they will play a repeat of the 2015 Premier final, as they take on Club America from Mexico.
Their third and final game pits them against David Harvey's County Tyrone.
*Credit, Sam Gamble
County Antrim fixtures
Monday, July 24 – Antrim v Southampton
Tuesday, July 25 – Antrim v Down
Wednesday, July 26 – Antrim v Strikers FC (USA_
Monday, July 24 – Antrim v Newcastle United
Tuesday, July 25 – Antrim v Club America (Mexico)
Wednesday, July 26 – Antrim v Tyrone