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.