2019 Trials…we hear from the Managers

Over the last number of weeks a series of trials have taken place to help the team of selectors identify the talent to deliver a successful week for the 18 person Junior and Premier squads.

After closing observing the skill sets on offer Junior Squad manager, Gary McAlister, was enthusiastic about his side’s chances noting

“The selectors and I have been very impressed with the talent on show. We had over 100 players to assess over the last 6 weeks and decisions to cut this to 18 have not been easy. We are confident that we have assembled a great squad to compete at this year’s tournament and look forward to Thursday’s draw too see what challenges lie ahead”

John Bailie, Premier Squad Manager, added

“I’ve been very impressed by the standard of player who have attended trials recently. This year there has been a really good blend of 2002 and 2003 age groups and it is very likely that this year’s squad will contain quite a few younger players”.

Moving forward Gary and John will be selecting their final squads, who will then embark in a programme of training sessions and matches to give them every chance of success, with the aim to bring trophies back to County Down.

This year’s tournament kicks off on Sunday 28th July with the Opening Parade & Ceremony and conclude with the Finals on Friday 2nd August, 2019.

Trials 05 May 2019

Today’s trials have now concluded and it is now time for the coaches to sit down and reflect, with some tough decisions to be made in the days ahead.

Starting of this morning Coach John Bailie and his team took their players through a light training session, before embarking in a game against Friends Academy.

Our boys ran out comprehensive winners, however on this occasion the scoreline played second to giving the players an opportunity to showcase their skills and putting themselves in the frame for one of those all-important places in the final squad.

We would like to thank the players and staff from Friends Academy for assisting in the trial, which is greatly appreciated.

Moving forward into the afternoon and it was the turn of the Juniors to push themselves forward into Coach Gary McAlister’s thoughts.

Split into two teams the trialists performed as we thought they would, showing great determination and exceptional skills, providing great optimism for us to make a firm impression in this year’s STATSport SuperCup NI.

Over the course of the last few weeks there have been numerous players who have given their all to warrant their place in the final squads and we would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their efforts.

Additionally, to the parents and guardians who have given their time to bring the boys to the trails and stand through the all too familiar Northern Ireland weather, we would like to please on record our gratitude.

Those players selected or do not make the final squads will be notified by letter in due course.

We would like to make it clear at this stage that in accepting a place in the final squad, those players are committed to attend every training session, so that we have every chance of not just performing in the tournament, but winning it.

Junior Squad Trials update

Trials Sunday 28 Apr 2019

This Sunday sees our Junior Trials take a different form, as the selectors look to narrow numbers down towards the final squad.

36 players will be split into two squads who will compete in two games at Bangor Sportsplex.

  • Game 1 vs Friends Select Academy – 11am Kick off
  • Game 2 vs Beann Mhádagháin FC – 2pm Kick off

Those players involved in these game and the prior trail on 14th April 2019 will be notified after Sunday as to who has made it through to the final stage.

Thank you again to all those who have taken part in trials to date.

Peninsula Print

On behalf of everyone at County Down STATSport Super Cup NI, can we offer a sincere thank you to Peninsula Print & Design for sponsoring our tracksuit and training gear for this year’s tournament.

Offering a simple mission ‘To provide a highly cost-effective printing service with the very best turnaround times and the added benefit of expert advice’, their website is a must place to visit to get further details on the excellent services they offer.


2018 story of the tournament

2018 will go down as the year when County Down made massive strides forward in the SuperCupNI with the Premier team contesting finals night at Ballymena Showgrounds for the first time.

The juniors boys enjoyed a memorable experience too, from twice defeating English academy side Charlton Athletic to coming close to qualifying for the semi-finals of the main tournament themselves.

See here for a look back at the week when 36 boys dared to dream on the north coast.

Bailie full of praise for his side

The SuperCupNI final proved to be a game too far for John Bailie’s Premier team, leaving the manager to wonder what might have been for his squad:

“Friday night was tinged with disappointment. We had done ever so well, and you always go into a final hoping that the boys are going to deliver. But B Italia were very good, and they were very good from the first minute and just didn’t let us settle. They played the game very well while we struggled for long periods. I don’t think we performed to our best, but to give credit to them, they didn’t let us perform either.

“It was the end of the week and we had four games were we were flat to the mat. B Italia on the other hand had been winning games 5-0 and a 3-0 and perhaps had been able to rest players and alternate a bit better than we have. We had the same eleven starting on Monday night and Thursday night and we were asking that same team to do a huge job in the final too. Perhaps I could have used the squad a bit more, but that’ll be for others to debate.”

How good was this year’s Premier squad?

“This year’s squad is probably the best I’ve had and I’ve seen some good players play for us. If there’s one disappointment from the week, it’s that I know how good they are and I know they have it in them to play better that the final showed. Perhaps that’s high expectations, but our guys can really play. There are six to eight players in that team who are really good.

“I said it from the outset, at our parents night, that this is the best squad I could have assembled. I said we’d do well, which sometimes doesn’t happen because of the draw or something else. But the boys have come through some tough games during the week and I think when we reflect on it, we should all be very proud of what we achieved. The kids will have learned how to prepare for situations like this in the future, because asking kids to play five games in five days is a massive ask.

Backed up by a great team:

“I always say that a manager is only as good as his players, and his coaches and while I’m the one out barking orders, I’m always backed up by a good squad of people. Davy and Peter and Carter have been superb, right through the training process everything I’ve needed has been done. They make my life and my job easy.

“Nigel the physio deserves a massive thanks as he’s had to run after both juniors and premiers all week and with that massive ask, he’s done a fantastic job for us. John Wilton is probably one of the most professional kitmen I’ve ever worked with. He was at Ards when I played there and nothing has changed about how professional he is and it was good to see him taking on [goalkeeper coach] Carter as his apprentice during the week!”

Junior manager reflects

2018 was the first year at the helm of the Junior team for Gary McAlister and we asked his reflections on the tournament following the last game.

“It was great to sign off with a win – that’ll be the last memory the lads have of the tournament. It was great to come away with a comfortable 3-0 win. If I’m honest, and I told the lads after the last game – we really had ups and downs this week, and that’s what the SuperCup is about. We’ve been in there testing ourselves against top teams and some days you’re going to be at 100%, other days the boys will be tired and things aren’t going to go your way.

“But it you look at things all together; we’ve kept two clean sheets, only conceded four goals while scoring seven – all from different scorers. The team have played with a lot of confidence and I’m really proud of them. I’ll always remember this group as the first team I’ve managed at the SuperCup.

“It’s always going to be difficult at this tournament. We played three games against opposition that you don’t really know much about and all you can manage is your own team. We went out on the Monday and were absolutely outstanding. Tuesday had us trying and trying to break down a really stubborn team and on Wednesday tiredness had set in and got the better of us.

“But by the semi-final against Chivas the boys had lifted it again and it was heart-breaking to lose the way we did, but I couldn’t have asked for a drop more effort than we got. In our last game, the boys went out and showed what they could do again. By Friday both teams were tired but we showed that we had the quality to go and finish the game off and get a comfortable win.”

Thoughts on the team he assembled:

“I was delighted to see our senior team make the final. I spent three years with that side and enjoyed it but managing this junior team is still where I would want to be. I’ve been able to watch these lads come in and enjoy themselves this week, generate interest from scouts and built rapport with each other. Some of these boys wouldn’t have played at this level before. We rolled the dice with some of the players we picked, but they’ve all done us proud and it’s been a really great week for us all. I’ve loved every minute of it.”

Highlight of the week:

“The highlight for me came on Monday when we beat Charlton. To go up against a pro team and  see the lads execute everything we asked them to was outstanding. To start the week like that was fantastic. For a group of players that we only have for eight weeks and we’re trying to teach them a style that we want to play and to see them get it and execute it – as a coach and a manager, I can’t ask for any more than that.”

Nobody does it alone:

“The team behind me have been outstanding. I’ve not had to worry about the kit and equipment because Sean has been everywhere, two hours early usually. Nigel our physio has worked back and forth across both teams, making sure the boys are in the best shape they could be in.

“The coaches, Lewis and Michael, and John on the side-lines with me giving a different viewpoint, have been invaluable. They’ve all been great and they’ve all helped keep me sane! A manager needs people like that around him and these guys have been the perfect team.”