Belfast Telegraph: “Milk Cup a national treasure”

Aug 13, 2013 | Press Releases

By Belfast Telegraph Sport Editor Jim Gracey

The marvellous Milk Cup has provided many moments of history in its 31 years and now we have another… the first Manchester United trophy of the David Moyes era, won in dramatic Fergie Time fashion, so reminiscent of his illustrious predecessor, against a gallant Tyrone county side.

Last week saw, by common consent, the sweetest Milk Cup in recent years with all the planets aligned… fine weather, quality football, competitive local sides and the cream rising to the top with a dream ticket finals night, the presence of Northern Ireland under-20s, Manchester United, Antrim and Tyrone attracting 3,600 spectators to the Ballymena Showgrounds.

But alongside the feelgood afterglow, a sour note exists over the thorny issue of funding.

Times are hard, they accept, but the Milk Cup is delivering as it swims against a financial rip tide to maintain its high standards, an exceptionally fine advert for Northern Ireland, like its equally under-funded north coast older cousin, the North West 200 motorcycle races.

Those who benefit most from the events, the public purse and tourism industry, need to do more in terms of additional Assembly and Tourist Board support.

Neither event would begrudge another, but they must wonder how the Police and Fire Games jamboree, for example, can be awarded as much in 10 days, a reputed £13m, as the Milk Cup and North West in 10 years.

Coleraine Borough Council, too, must quicken its step to provide the facilities to ensure the return of the showpiece finals to their spiritual home in the town while retaining a role for the superb and hospitable temporary hosts, Ballymena.

To get back to the United analogy. There was a comfort zone with Sir Alex Ferguson among many United fans, with a generation knowing no other manager and only unprecedented success.

But change is inevitable and must be supportively underpinned to ensure continuity, as we are seeing with Moyes.

The Milk Cup, like Fergie, remains a national treasure and institution its supporters simply cannot afford to take for granted.