'Sectarian' attack on Milk Cup teams

TEENAGERS representing the Republic at a prestigious Ulster football tournament have been subjected to sectarian violence.

On Monday evening, junior footballers from Dublin sides Crumlin United and Cherry Orchard were forced to leave their accommodation in Coleraine after stones were thrown at the building in which they were staying.

It is believed the youths also faced verbal abuse of a sectarian nature from a mob who gathered outside the University of Ulster facility.

Police confirmed a 19-year-old man had been arrested for questioning in relation to the incident, but had subsequently been released on bail.

The southern teams are in Northern Ireland this week for the internationally acclaimed Milk Cup competition taking place this week in the north west.

A scheduled under-14 match was postponed yesterday to allow the Crumlin United teenage players to recover from the ordeal. Their match with Danish side, Brondby, took place at 7pm on Tuesday.

Milk Cup spokesman, Jim Sandford was forthright in his condemnation of the incident.

He described how a group of "yobs" gathered outside the alloted accommodation to throw stones at the windows and intimidate the children playing for the two Dublin clubs.

"We have been going for 25 years now and Northern Ireland has seen some dark days in those 25 years. But this is the first time anything like this has ever happened," he said.

"There is obviously still yobs out there who decided they wanted to show the ugly face of Northern Ireland."

Mr Sandford admitted the teenagers were "shaken up" by the incident.

"A couple of the gang also squared up nose-to-nose with our staff who were trying to deal with the situation and threatened to have them knee-capped.

"One said their father was a big man in Belfast. But I think when they heard the sirens they took to their heels," he added.

Both teams were forced to spend the night at a Portrush hostel due to the inconvenience.

Manager of Cherry Orchard, Paul Clare moved to reassure the youngsters ahead of their remaining fixtures.

"I just had a chat with them and told them it was only a silly drunk," he said.

It is believed both sides will not allow the attack to deter them from competing in this year's tournament.

The Milk Cup - involving a total of 56 teams from around the world - was launched on Sunday by former Manchester United player Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The tournament, which is in its 26th year, will conclude on Friday.