Southern trio get taste of international competition

Three southern footballers have returned from the Milk Cup tournament in Northern Ireland.

James Tucker, of James Hargest College, and Kieran McIntyre and Tsukasa Inoue, of Wakatipu High School, lined up with the future stars of world football at the time-honoured tournament in Coleraine from July 28 to August 2.

Tucker, McIntyre and Inoue were in the 18-strong Otago United team, which was the only side from New Zealand attending.

The Otago United squad was made up of the Football Otago's youth development members.

It was the 10th time Otago had sent a team to the tournament, selector-coach Neil McKenzie, of Dunedin, said.

Otago United took part in the premier section (under 17), while the other categories were elite (under 19) and junior (under 15).

Twenty teams were in the premier division, including famous English clubs Manchester United and Liverpool.

While en route to Coleraine the Kiwis played a Galaxy youth academy team in Los Angeles and won 1-0.

Another warmup game planned for Otago United in Northern Ireland was cancelled because of a misunderstanding over when it was to be held.

Otago United finished fourth in the premier division's bowl.

Its five games resulted in a win against County Fermanagh 3-1; a loss to County Tyrone 2-0; a loss to Club America de Mexico 2-1; a loss to County Down in a bowl semifinal, 2-0; and a loss in the final to French club Vendee FC 3-0.

Tucker has played for Otago United at two Milk Cups.

McIntyre was to have gone last year but he broke a leg in a football game three weeks before the Northern Ireland event.

"It's an amazing tournament," McIntyre said.

"We were the first Otago team to win an opening game at a Milk Cup . . . We made a bit of history," he said of this year's squad.

McIntyre played for Queenstown Rovers at the weekend and is keen to be in the under-19 Otago Youth team in the spring.

The 17-year-old would like a career in football.

"Ideally, it would be good for me to stay in New Zealand, but you never know what's possible. You never know who's watching [at football games]."

Coach Neil McKenzie said to be at the Milk Cup was a "mind-blowing experience".

"People over here don't comprehend how big football is over there."

The Southland Times