Tourney selection a happy surprise

Europe bound . . . South Canterbury footballers (back row from left) Max Roger, Tadhg Harrington, (front from left) Marshall Solomon, and Dalton Todd are set to travel to Northern Ireland in July as part of the Otago development squad. PHOTO: CONNOR HALEY

Four South Canterbury football friends had the surprise of a lifetime after discovering they would be playing in the 2024 Northern Ireland Super Cup in July.

Timaru Boys’ High School pupils Tadhg Harrington, 15, Marshall Solomon, 16, Max Roger, 15 and Roncalli College pupil Dalton Todd, 15, have all been playing together at club and development level since they were 11.

After competing at a school tournament, the four boys were completely unaware their performances had caught the eye of the Otago development team scouts.

Roger said he was shocked when he received an email inviting him to trial for the squad.

‘‘It came as a complete surprise — we had no idea anyone was there watching, especially for that.

‘‘It’s really exciting and such an amazing opportunity for us.’’

The Otago team comprises players from as far north as Timaru and as far south as Invercargill.

After making the cut at the trials, they were all named in the 18-player squad, set to make the trip abroad to compete in the renowned Northern Ireland Super Cup (formerly the Milk Cup).

The tournament first began in the 1980s and has flourished into one of the largest developmental tournaments in the footballing world.

Some of the world’s biggest football juggernauts will attending this year, such as Manchester United, Brighton & Hove Albion and Rangers.

It is the first time Otago has attended since Covid.

The team will be competing in the under-16 ‘‘premier’’ section of the tournament, and making the longest journey to attend out of all teams competing.

Harrington said he was looking forward to the challenge of getting to play against some of the world’s best.

‘‘The atmosphere in some of the stadiums is going to be crazy, it’s really exciting.

‘‘I don’t really know what to expect. You never really know until you get there.’’

The draw for the tournament was held last Friday, and Otago found themselves in group E along with County Tyrone, Hamilton Academicals, and Rangers FC.

Todd said he was particularly looking forward to the Rangers match.

‘‘It’s going to be a good challenge and if we do really well in our group we’ll get to go up against Manchester United.’’

To get to Northern Ireland, the boys would need to raise $9000 each.

A golf fundraiser in Dunedin was held last weekend, and they will be holding a quiz at the Sail and Anchor on May 10.

They had also been getting in touch with businesses and seeking sponsorship to aid with the costs.

They will first be attending a training camp in Dunedin on July 7 before flying to England on July 12 to take part in a series of friendlies in Manchester, and will eventually arrive in Derry on July 20 ready to kick off the week-long competition the next day.