Milk Cup Premier Section Match Reports

Belvedere Under 17's Milk Cup adventure ended on Friday evening 23rd July, after defeat in the final of the Premier Section, to Scottish side Hearts, at a packed Coleraine Showgrounds Stadium. It had proved to be a roller-coaster ride for the Fairview outfit and one that few would have expected when they set out on their travels on Sunday morning as they headed for Coleraine. Never having participated in the Milk Cup Tournament before, Belvedere might have been considered by some to be rank outsiders for this prestigious tournament.

Monday 19th July........Venue : The Warren , Portstewart....... Kick Off 3.00pm

Otago Youth Soccer 1 - 1 Belvedere F.C

Belvedere's opening match against New Zealand Premier League Club, Otago Youth Soccer was played at the Warren, Portstewart. Otago were a big strong strong side who played a very physical style of football. Belvo started well, with Conor Lehinan causing all sorts of problems for the Otago defence with his mazy runs down the left flank. He was hacked down repeatedly as he went past Otago defenders, while the referee seemed reluctant to produce the yellow card. New signing Derek Swann opened the scoring for Belvo after 12 minutes, when he swivelled and shot from a Lenihan cross to give the Otago keeper no chance. The New Zealanders created a few scoring opportunities themselves, but were unable to really trouble Shane Roche in goal. Belvo continued to play the better football and created a number of scoring chances, and should have gone further ahead, as Swannie and Michael Mooney both came close. Otago played a very direct type of football in the second half, backed up with their physical challenges. With 10 minutes remaining, keeper Roche was injured in one such aerial challenge as he punched clear from a cross. Ignoring calls from the Belvo bench for assistance to the keeper, the referee allowed play to continue and Otago forced home an equaliser. The final few minutes were hectic as Belvo went in search of a winner, but at the final whistle the score remained 1 - 1. Belvo were bitterly disappointed to draw their opening match, which, had they taken their chances earlier on, they could have won well. The pressure was now on Belvo to win their next match if they were to have any chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals.

Tuesday 20th July ........Venue : Ballymena Showgrounds Kick....... Kick Off 7.00pm

Belvedere F.C. 1 - 0 Sporting Club Lisbon

Next up for the Dubliners was the daunting prospect of playing the giants of Sporting Club Lisbon. The Portuguese side, considered among the favourites for the tournament, would have gone into the match confident of picking up their second win in two days. Heavy rain made for a slippery surface at the excellent Ballymena Showgrounds Stadium as Belvedere took the initiative early on and forced a number of corner kicks. Shane Fitzgerald and Conor Lenihan caused the Lisbon side no end of problems with their runs down the flanks. Belvo's back four of Niall O'Reilly, Sean Fay, James Lee and Conor Powell dealt comfortably with anything the visitors threw at them and so it remained scoreless at half time. The second half was a tight tense affair with both sides going close. Shane Roche was, once again, in great form between the posts, denying the Portuguese strikers. Belvo continued to defend well, while Scott Weir and Mark Healy took control of the middle of the park. The decisive moment in the game came with 10 minutes left to play. Belvo were defending a set piece when left back Conor Powell launched a counter attack and found Derek Swann with a great pass. Swannie quickly switched play to Fitzie on the right wing, who raced past the full back before delivering an inch perfect cross which was met by Scott Weir's powerful header to the roof of the net. Weir had run over 60 yards from his own penalty area to be on target to score the goal. Lisbon threw everything they had at Belvo in search of an equaliser but they were met by a resolute defence. At the final whistle there was great celebrations among the players and supporters as Belvo recorded an historic win. More importantly, the three points gained meant that Belvedere would be in the draw for the quarter-finals later on that evening.

Milk Cup Quarter-Finals

Wednesday July 21st.........Venue : Coleraine Rugby Grounds....... Kick Off 7.00pm

Belvedere F.C. 1 - 1 Jomo Cosmos ( Belvedere won 4 - 2 on penalties )

This absorbing quarter-final encounter pitted Belvedere against the pace and trickery of this excellent South African Football Academy team. Jomo Cosmos stormed out of the blocks and took an early lead after 8 minutes when they scored from a set piece, straight out of the training ground. Their speed and movement caused Belvo all sorts problems in the first 20 minutes. Belvo rode their luck thanks to keeper Shane Roche made some great saves. Belvo, however, dug deep and competed strongly in mid-field, with Scott Weir and Mark Healy working hard and they began to get back into the match. Eight minutes before half time Weir had to leave the pitch to receive attention to a deep cut above his eyebrow, following a clash of heads, but he was able to return to play, albeit with a large bandage around his head. The second half saw a much improved Belvo take the game to their opponents. With influential midfielder Weir leading the charge, Belvo laid siege to the Cosmos' goal. However, despite the constant pressure, the South Africians managed to hold out until 2 minutes from time, when Conor Powell's left wing cross found Derek Swann, and he saved the day for Belvo with a stunning left footed volley into the net for the equaliser. And so it went to a penalty shootout to decide the winners. Belvo's Michael Mooney, Niall O'Reilly, Timmy Purcell each scored with excellent penalty kicks, while keeper Shane Roche brilliantly saved two of the Cosmos penalties. And then up stepped Derek Swann who fired home Belvo's fourth penalty kick to send Belvo into the Milk Cup Semi-Finals amid scenes of wild celebration.

Milk Cup Semi-Finals

Thursday July 22nd............Venue : Ballymena Showgrounds Stadium ....... Kick Off 7.00pm

Funabashi F.C. 0 - 3 Belvedere F.C.

Back once again at the scene of their historic win over Sporting Club Lisbon earlier in the week, Belvedere took on Japanese side Funabashi F.C. for a place in the final. Belvo made a dream start with two early goals from set pieces. The first was an in-swinging cross-come-shot from Conor Lenihan which deceived the Funabashi keeper and it went in of the far up-right. Scott Weir doubled the advantage for Belvo minutes later when he scored from an other in-swinging Lenihan free kick. The Japanese were in disarray while the Belvo were now in cruise control. At half time Purcell replaced Swann up front as Belvo continued to dominate the match. Midway through the second half Belvo should have gone three up when right full Niall O'Reilly over-lappped down the right wing into the box before squaring the ball for the in-rushing Weir, who's shot on goal was somehow blocked by the Japanese keeper. However, Weir was not to be denied a second goal, when five minutes later he spotted the Funabashi keeper off his line and from 25 yard out he lobbed the ball over the keeper's head into the net, to seal the result for Belvo and book their place in the final..

Milk Cup Final

Friday July 23rd............Venue : Coleraine Showgrounds Stadium....... Kick Off 7.15pm

Heart of Midlothian F.C. 3 - 1 Belvedere F.C.

A crowd in excess of 4,000 packed the Coleraine Showgrounds Stadium for the Milk Cup Final between Hearts and Belvedere. Quite a number of the other teams in the Premier Section had come along to lend their support to a Belvedere team who had proved to be very popular at the tournament. In a nervous opening few minutes Belvo were spurred on by this loud vocal support and the team responded well. After a promising spell, Belvo took the lead following a good move by Scott Weir who passed to Conor Lenihan on the left wing. "Leno" delivered a lovely cross into the Hearts' penalty area. Derek Swann rose highest at the far post and sent a looping header over the despairing keeper in off the post. This sparked off scenes of wild celebration between the players and supporters in the packed Belvedere section of the crowd. "Swannie" was unlucky not to double his team's advantage minutes later when his shot on goal was finger tipped away by the Hearts' keeper, to deny Belvo a certain goal. Belvo remained on top for almost the entire first half, before a momentary lapse in concentration by the defence allowed Hearts to draw level from a corner kick just on the stroke of half time. Hearts went ahead straight from the second half kick off when they caught Belvo napping at the back and their striker finished in style. Belvo battled hard to get back in the game and they pushed forward trying to grab an equaliser. This left gaps at the back which Hearts exploited and they scored a third goal with a sweet volley from their striker five minutes later. The Boys in Blue kept plugging away, but the full time professionals of Hearts were well organised at the back, and denied Belvo any further scoring chances. And so at the final whistle it was Hearts who claimed the Milk Cup Trophy, while Belvedere can be rightly proud of the their achievements in reaching the final, on their first time out.

While Belvedere collected the Milk Cup Final runners-up medals, they also received the award for "The Most Successful Northern Ireland or Republic of Ireland Team" being the only Irish team to reach the quarter-finals in the Premier Section of the Milk Cup Tournament 2004.

Belvedere's Milk Cup Squad 2004 : Shane Roche, Niall O'Reilly, Conor Powell, Mark Keane, Sean Fay, James Lee, Shane Fitzgerald, Scott Weir, Mark Healy, Derek Swann, Michael Mooney, Conor Lenihan, Ian Rennicks, Brian McCann, Rory Brown, Gerry McGovern, David Martin, Timmy Purcell, David Lawlor.

Manager : John Moore, Coach: Jimmy Jackson, Assistants: Kieran O'Reilly, Tony Lynch, Gerry Brown. Eddie Foy, Jamie Moore.

Match reports by Belvo supporters Darragh O'Reilly and Kevin Walsh

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All the results can be viewed on the Northern Ireland Milk Cup Web Site >>>