Former Northern Ireland star Andy Kirk relishing Milk Cup return with Rangers

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Former Northern Ireland international Andy Kirk will again help spearhead Rangers’ search for success at this year’s Dale Farm Milk Cup.

The ex-Glentoran, Hearts and Dunfermline winger is a coach in the club’s youth academy and says his experiences at the tournament as a teenager helped shape his future career.

Kirk – who won 14 international caps – was part of the Northern Ireland squad which first lifted the Elite title back in 1997 but had previously played in the competition twice.

“It was so special to be part of such a massive event as a boy,” he recalls.

“I played for Dundonald Youth League in the Junior section in 1993. I remember we beat Everton but lost to Rangers and also had a good win over a team from Bermuda.

“I played for Northern Ireland two years in succession with David Healy, Aaron Hughes, Wes Boyle and Tim McCann in the squad.

“The chance to compete against quality teams from around the world is the big strength of the tournament and then it is the whole week-long experience of being together.”

Rangers were inaugural Junior Milk Cup winners back in 1985 when John Spencer’s squad defeated Ulster side Craigavon in the final at Coleraine Showgrounds. The club’s two other successes came in the Premier section with victory over holders Motherwell in 1984 and in 1992 when Charlie Miller scored twice in the decider against Nottingham Forest.

The Ibrox representatives will join defending champions County Antrim, plus Liverpool. Southampton, 2012 champions Brentford and Swindon Town, winners in 2006, in the chase for glory. Plymouth Argyle and Sheffield United complete a strong English challenge while there are four teams from the USA: Global Sports Bayern, Pateadores, Strikers and OC Blues, as well as three from the Republic of Ireland: North Dublin, Donegal and Dundalk.