John Bailie on the County Down Dale Farm Milk Cup experience


Having amassed over 500 games of Senior Football for Ards and Bangor, Irish league fans will be familiar with the name of John Bailie. He Captained, both sides, as the man from Portavogie garnered himself a reputation as one of local football’s most intelligent and tenacious fullbacks. For those who knew John it came as no surprise when he swapped running up and down the football pitch, for the dugout. Since he made that decision Bailie has not looked back, as the successes he enjoyed as a player have been replicated by the trophies he has won as a manager. It all began in 2008, when he was appointed as Bangor reserve team Manger. Following that, he spent 17 months at Comber, during which he saved the club from relegation. Then, in 2010 Linfield came calling and he was appointed as under 19 Manager. 5 trophies later and having guided numerous players through to top flight football it is clear John Bailie is doing something right.


However his fondest memories come from his relationship with County Down Dale Farm Milk Cup, which began during his reign as Bangor reserve team Manager in 2008, “ Paul Ritchie’s (Chairman) son Timmy played for me at Bangor. At the end of the season, there was a vacancy for the junior position. Paul asked if I would be interested and of course I said yes. So I had an interview and was informed shortly after that I’d got the job. I was in the junior role for 3 years before moving up and becoming Premier Team Manger. I am very fortunate to have the role. I absolutely love it, and it is arguably the highlight of your year. You are working together with kids who all want to be there and achieve something and that is really exciting. You have great training facilities, plus there are no time constraints for training so you can do it right. Essentially it gives you a sample of what life is like as a professional footballer, which especially for those who wish to try and pursue that, it is a great experience for them.”


Bailie has witnessed a number of moments in recent Dale Farm Milk Cups, which will go down in County Down folklore. “The great thing about the Milk Cup is that each year provides a number of standout moments. For example in my third year with the juniors we beat Cruz Azul, which was special, because they were very strong. Only Aspire beat us that year 2-0 and to put that into context they put five past Manchester United in the final. Out of 10 halves of football, that year we only conceded in one of them. Then in my first year we got to the Quarterfinals but were beat by Club Pachuca. That team was as good as a team as I have had with County Down. You had players like Cockcroft, David Morgan and Luke Conlon, and if we had a bit of luck we could of won it that year. I have had other good teams and if I am honest over the 7 years I have been involved we have maybe only let ourselves down on only 3 or 4 occasions, which for me is very satisfying.”

Bailie dreams of being the first manager to win the Dale Farm Milk Cup as a manger of one of the County sides but admits the difficulties of doing so, especially since he has become Premier Manger. “The reality is that the junior squad will always have a better chance than the Premier. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, your better players at junior level will have often gone to England by time it comes to representing the Premier side so you are missing your best players. The second thing is that the academy sides that are sent over here from across the water are of a far higher quality at Premier level than what they are at junior level. For whatever reason at junior level the academy sides tend to send players over who are perhaps a year or two younger than the other sides. This gives the Junior County sides a chance of causing an upset.”


Bailie has learnt an awful lot during his experience with County Down and has cultivated himself a reputation as a Manager who is capable of getting the most of what he has available. “It is not easy as a coach. It is just not as simple as picking your best 18 players and playing 4-4-2. If you do that in the Milk Cup against Manchester United, they will hammer you. You need hard-working players, lads who are willing to listen, who are going to get them fit, prepared to spend a lot of time without the ball. You accept that the academy sides are going to be better on average than the players you have, so you hope your fitness can balance that out. And then you need one of two match-winners who are capable of producing a moment of magic to win a game.”


John Bailie understands that his best chance of winning the Dale Farm Milk Cup will not be in charge of the Premier side. However Bailie who spent a career not backing down and maximising not just his own potential but those around him, it would certainly be foolish to rule out County Down’s Premier side of eventually getting their hands on the coveted Dale Farm Milk Cup in the not too distant future.

2015 Dale Farm Milk Cup Trial Dates confirmed!

The trials to represent County Down at the Dale Farm Milk Cup have been confirmed. Those players who are required to play in a specific trial game will be contacted no later than the Monday  of the week before the Sunday trial. If there are any queries regarding this set-up then please direct your enquiry to the official email address:


(Note all below subject to change)

Sunday 8th March- Kilmore Playing Fields 14:00-16:00. (Junior Trial only)

Sunday 8th March-  1ST Bangor Bangor. 10:00-12:00 (Junior trial) 12:00-1400 (Senior trial)

Sunday 15th March- Comber Rec 10:00-14:00. (Junior and Senior Trials)

Sunday 15th March- Kilmore Playing Fields. 14:00-1600. (Junior trial only)

Sunday 22nd March – Abbey Villa. 10:00-1400. (Junior and Senior trials)

Sunday 22nd March- Kilmore Playing Fields. 14:00-1600. (Junior trial only)

Sunday 29th March- 1st Bangor. 10:00-1400. (Junior and Senior trials)

Sunday 12th April- Comber Rec. 11:00-14:00. ( Senior trial only)

Sunday 19th April- Abbey Villa. 10:00-14:00. (Junior and Senior trials)

Sunday 26th April- East Down v South Down. (Venue and time to be announced)

Thursday 30th April- Final Junior Trial. (Venue and time to be announced.)


*The details for the Junior South Down trials are yet to be confirmed. Damian McCorry, trial Co-ordinator, will be in touch. *


Bryson ready for Dale Farm Milk Cup challenge

David Bryson has been announced as the new County Down Junior Dale Farm Milk Cup manager. With trials taking place in March, preparations are already well under way with the current Ards first team coach to take charge effective immediately.

Bryson replaces Kyle Spiers who has decided to end a ten-year on/off affiliation with the County. Spiers, who reached the Semi’s of the main Dale Farm Milk Cup competition twice, enjoyed considerable success with County Down. He, along with ex-manager and current Chairman Paul Ritchie and John Bailie, has been responsible for bringing a new level of professionalism to matters on and off the field in the County.

Looking to build on that development, David Bryson, the ex Comber Rec and Bangor Reserves coach has a big task ahead of him and during the week I caught up with him to discuss the challenges ahead.

It is Bryson’s first role as Manager, but the Donaghadee man is not fazed, “ I’ve been working in local football for over 20 years and have been very fortunate to have worked under two very successful managers in Niall Currie at Ards and John at Comber rec and Bangor Reserves. I have also spent the last 4 years working under John in the Milk Cup set-up. During this time we have won 3 trophies and were beaten finalists the other year. So we have enjoyed success and it is something I will be aiming to achieve with the junior side. Both Niall and John have been very influential on my coaching career and I’ve learned a lot from working under them. I’ll be using those lessons along with my own experience of the Dale Farm Milk Cup to ease the transition from coach to manager. There is obviously a big difference between the two roles but I understand the challenge ahead and am looking forward to the opportunity. I am very thankful to the committee for placing their trust in me and I will be looking to repay that through developing a strong, well-organised and efficient County Down side.”

In terms of the 2015 Dale Farm Milk Cup, I asked the measured Bryson what his aspirations are for this years crop of young players, “Well first and foremost I want to continue the good work of Kyle Spiers, he has done a great job as both coach and manager over the past number of years and has really brought the County set-up along. Secondly the Dale Farm Milk Cup is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious youth football tournaments, so we will be looking to produce a team that can represent and shine a positive light on local football. The kids will have a great opportunity to showcase their talents on a big stage and the focus has to be on selecting 18 hard-working, committed and skillful individuals who are capable of uniting together as a team in order to go as far as possible in the Dale Farm Milk Cup. For example Liverpool, Rangers and Middlesbrough were all involved in last year’s junior competition. The chance to test yourself against such high quality opposition does not come along often in your career and it is important the players realize the significance of this. However it is important not to get too far ahead of yourself. Trials for this year’s

competition have not even begun therefore; in the meantime we will cross one bridge at a time. First the squad will be selected then it will be about taking each training session and match, one event at a time. As long as we focus on ourselves then I am confident we will represent the county well at this years Dale Farm Milk Cup”

Time will reveal how successful Bryson will be, but it remains clear that the Donaghadee man is well placed to deliver more success to the County Down outfit. With a wealth of experience behind him the popular Bryson will be looking to stamp his name on County Down folklore. But for now Bryson and Premier Team manger John Bailie will be conducting trials at the beginning of March. Details of how to register for the forthcoming trials can be found on the official County Down website.

County Down Honours Stalwarts


Hundreds of the best young players in County Down trial every year with the ambition of representing their County at the Dale Farm Milk Cup. Few make it and fewer still manage to do it four years in succession. That was what Callum Byers, Nic Turkington and Adam Salley did and the 2014 Dale Farm Milk Cup saw them make their last appearance for County Down. The three lads have been stalwarts in the Down set-up and all three were honoured for their outstanding achievement by County Down committee Chairman Paul Ritchie at the awards ceremony following Friday’s Salver Cup victory over Bohemians.

The other day I caught up with all three individuals to discuss what the Dale Farm Milk Cup means to them. Callum Byers, who skippered John Bailie’s premier side in this years Dale Farm Milk Cup and took home player of the tournament spoke about his relationship with the Milk Cup,

“Now that I have played in my last Milk Cup for County Down I am devastated, I have no idea what I will do next summer. The Milk Cup has developed me into the player that I am today.”  For the imposing Centre half has started 19 consecutive games for County Down, only missing the first game of the 2011 campaign, his favourite Dale Farm Milk Cup moment came on, “The Wednesday of the 2013 Dale Farm Milk Cup when I was playing a year young in the Premier section against Cruz Azul who were one of the favourites to the whole tournament, but we battled and worked hard beating them 1-0. When the final whistle went it was an incredible feeling and a great achievement.”

For Nic Turkington of Carryduff, his favourite moments were “firstly getting in a year young in 2011 and playing in every game was amazing and then in 2012 winning the overall golden boot, player of the tournament and the Bertie Peacock award all in one year from left back was incredible and gave me memories that I will never forget.” He added that “Dale Farm Milk Cup was to me the most enjoyable week of summer and it will be sorely missed.”

Forward Salley remembers, “the banter with the lads in the hotel, the time at the beach and the opportunity you were given to play against and learn from some of the best young players around. It was the climax of the summer, everything you looked forward to.”

Despite the fond memories this years tournament was tinged with a case of ‘what could have been’. Salley said, “ I had high expectations for us this year. In the training sessions and in the friendly games we were well organised and playing some really good football but when it came to the big games we played no football at all. Basically we underachieved.” Byers added that “things did not go our way in the first 3 games but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

And with that final kick of the ball on Friday in the Salver Cup final the curtains were drawn on these three young players careers with County Down. All three were grateful to the opportunities provided to them by Chairman Paul Ritchie, Kyle Spiers and John Bailie over the past number of years. Here’s hoping that this will not be the last we hear of Turkington, Salley and Byers and that one day they will be able to join the elite band of professional footballers who once played in this prestigious Tournament. For the meantime all that is left to do is to recognise the skill, perseverance and dedication each one of these lads has shown in abundance over the previous four years.

2014 Ballot Winners

Ballot winners 2014
Lodge weekend – Avril c/o Rhys O’Bryan
Quays Restaurant voucher – Gabby , Holywood GC
Signed football -M Milligan , Dundela
Shoe Fair voucher – M Kelly, Comber
Multi Clean voucher – J Campbell, Newtownards
Bottle Jaegermeister – L Duncan, Portadown
Ice watch – J Byers, Dundonald
Dyson vacuum cleaner – C Shields, Strangford
Ski & Sports voucher – C McConville, Newry
Azure Beauty Clinic voucher – Choc Box, Belfast
Signed NI Shirt – A Davidson, Comber

Finally on behalf of the committee a big thanks to everyone who sold and bought tickets. The support was greatly appreciated!

Premier Squad end the week on top!


John Bailie’s premier squad took on Bohemians in the Salver final on a wet and windy day at Anderson Park. Down started like a house on fire and almost scored inside the first couple of minutes after Salley done Well down the left hand side before teeing up strike partner Rushe who saw his effort just go over the bar.

Khalid was next to go close, fizzing in a low drive from 20 yards against the post. Byers and Salley also missed chances as Down looked to capitalise on their impressive start by taking the lead. They did not have long to wait, thanks to Lennox scoring his second goal in two days from a free kick to make it 1-0 to Down.

On the stroke on half time it was almost 2-0 when Rushe whipped in a dangerous free kick that Stewart got on the end of but the big centre half saw his effort saved well by the Bohemians keeper. John Bailie’s squad entered the half-time interval knowing that the final could have been wrapped up had they been more clinical in front of goal.

The second half was a fairly drab affair as both teams looked to be feeling the effects of the fifth game in as many days. Salley who had scored in the two previous days was eager to add to his total and he almost did. After a neat turn on the edge of the box he drilled a left-footed shot in on the Bohemians goal but it was well saved by the keeper. That was the end of the action as Down comfortably held on to win the Salver Trophy and end the week with only one defeat.

Teams: Kane, Foster, Stewart, Byers, Neale, Lennox, Khalid, Dempster, Dupree, Salley, Rushe. Subs: Morrow, Mcgovern, Drylie, Johnston, Noble-Walker, Turkington, Newell.

Down unlucky in defeat on final day


County Junior Squad before the Bowl Final.

Broughshane was the venue for the final game of the 2014 Dale Farm Milk Cup for Kyle Spiers’ junior squad. Taking on Scottish league side Motherwell in the final of the Bowl, Down found themselves behind once again to an early goal after neat play down the Motherwell right teed up their centre forward who made no mistake with a composed low finish.
Down responded well, equalising just minutes later after a lovely reverse pass by Captain Sharvin set the prolific Brown, through on goal. Brown found the bottom left hand corner with his finish to make it 1-1 and take his goal tally for the week to 5.

Down, who were now in the ascendency were causing all sorts of problems for the Motherwell defence and it seemed only a matter of time before they took the lead. Sharvin went close a couple of times with long range efforts but it was McClements who gave Down the lead after 20 minutes with a diving header from a Chambers cross.

Leading 2-1 Down continued to press home their dominance as Chambers went close with his finish after a driving run through the Motherwell midfield. Tobin then almost added to Downs lead when his header from a Chambers corner went just over. As the teams headed in for the half time interval Down were in control and could count themselves unlucky only to be 2-1 in front.

The second half began the way the first half ended with Down firmly in control and it was not long before it was 3-1 thanks to a Leo Brown penalty following a foul on Down forward Tobin.
Down who were rampant by this stage looked like scoring every time they attacked. Chambers went close after beating his man and firing in a left-footed shot on goal. Brown was next up to go close as the big striker, who was chasing down the Tournament Golden boot almost got his hat-trick but his effort, from a McArthur cross went just over.

Motherwell who were being outplayed almost got one back but their centre half’s header from the corner was well saved by Davidson in the Down goal. They went close again shortly later but once again Davidson was equal to the effort. A slack 5 minutes followed for Down, and they were punished when Motherwell forward Faulkner drilled home a finish after latching onto a low cross from the right to make it 3-2.

That goal brought Down back to life as moments later Brown almost sealed the victory for but the keeper got down well to save his shot. It was then Chambers turn to go close with a free kick that looked destined for the top right hand corner. However at the last second the keeper acrobatically tipped it over for a corner.

Disaster then struck for Down after Motherwell forward Faulkner was felled inside the box. He dusted himself down and slammed home the penalty to make it 3-3. Then in the dying embers of the match Motherwell completed the comeback. Faulkner flicked the ball in after Down failed to clear the ball from a corner to make it 4-3 and Motherwell took home the Bowl trophy.

Teams- Davidson, Garland, Dillon,Marshall, Kelly, McClements, Sharvin, Chambers, White, Brown, Tobin. Subs: Cannavan, Mitchell, Bates, Nelson, Graham, McArthur, McCloy.

Premier ease past OC Blues

Down entered into Thursday’s Salver Semi-final against OC Blues from America hoping to get the win their play in the first three days, has merited. Down started well and Captain Byers had his header cleared of the line while Stewart and Rushe both had chances to give Down the lead.

On 20 minutes Down got their just rewards for an impressive start after Left back Neale slid Lennox through on the goalkeeper who showed excellent composure to take it round the OC Blues goalkeeper and give Down a deserved 1-0 lead.

It was 2-0 shortly after Dupree outwitted the OC Blues full-back who subsequently shoved him to the ground. The referee had no choice but to award a Down penalty that Salley converted for his second goal in consecutive days. Rushe who was causing the OC Blues went close just before the break but as the sides entered the half time interval the score remained 2-0, with Down in firm control.

The second half was a lot scrappier than the first half but Down remained in control. The only major incident of the second half occurred when a Foster pass back was picked up by Down goalkeeper Morrow. The referee dubiously awarded OC Blues an indirect free kick 8 yards from the Down goal. The OC Blues forward smashed the ball towards the net but Morrow and his defence did well to clear the danger.

That was the last major incident of the match as Down comfortably progressed into Friday’s final against Bohemians.


Team: Morrow, Foster, Byers, Stewart, Neale, Khalid, Dempster, Dupree, Lennox, Rushe, Salley Subs: Kane, Turkington,Noble-walker, Johnston, McGovern, Drylie, Newell.



Junior in impressive form against strong Japan side

Down took on the Japan football academy in the Semi-final of the Shield on a wet and miserable afternoon in Clough.

Kyle Spiers’ team found themselves 1-0 down again early on, after Sharvin gave away a free kick on the edge of the Down box. The Japan forward dusted himself off and drilled his effort through the wall into the right hand corner of the net.

Japan almost doubled their lead when their number 10 picked up a loose ball on the edge of the Down box and fizzed in a low drive which Cannavan in the Down goal was equal to.

Down equalised shortly after following a rampaging Jack White run down the left hand side saw him fizz the ball across the Japan box. The ball bounced about before the Japan defender directed the ball into his own net to make it 1-1.
Down made it two goals in two minutes and in doing so took full control of the semi final thanks to a Leo Brown header from a Jack White cross. It was the big strikers fourth goal in 3 matches this week.

Brown almost added to his tally but his header from a McArthur cross went just over and the first half ended with Down leading 2-1.

The second half begun and Down found themselves conceding early on again after a neat interchange down he left hand side saw the Japan forward slip it across to his strike partner, who made no mistake with his finish to make it 2-2.

The goal seemed to jolt Down back into life as they looked to re-take control of the Semi-final tie. They almost retook the lead minutes later when Brown who was a threat all afternoon took the ball on his chest, drove through the Japan defence but his finish went just past the post. McArthur went even closer shortly after after he beat his man but his finish hit the outside of the post.

Down were rewarded for their efforts as White thumped in a header from a McClements corner to make it 3-2. White was at it again minutes later after the dangerous McArthur was brought down inside the Japan box. White dispatched the spot kick and got his second of the match, sealing Down’s place in the final of the Shield.

Canavan, Kelly, McCloy, Dillon, White, Sharvin, McClements,Mitchell, Bates, Brown, McArthur.Subs: Garland, Chambers, Graham, Marshall, Davidson, Nelson, Tobin.