Rangers and Celtic sign up for SuperCupNI

Rangers' Cole McKibbon    and Co Londonderry Lee Harkin
Rangers' Cole McKibbon and Co Londonderry Lee Harkin
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Rangers and Celtic have both signed up for this summer’s STATSports SuperCupNI.

But Glasgow’s Old Firm pair will not meet in this summer’s international youth tournament.

Celtic's Kerr McInroy in action with Manchester Uniteds Dion McGhee during last year's Under-19 SuperCupNI game at Coleraine

Celtic's Kerr McInroy in action with Manchester Uniteds Dion McGhee during last year's Under-19 SuperCupNI game at Coleraine

Celtic will bring some of their top Under-17 future stars to compete in the Premier competition at Under-17 level while Rangers contest the Junior tournament in the U-15 age group.

Rangers have a proud history in the competition with a title win in the inaugural Junior section for John Spencer’s team when they defeated Craigavon on penalties back in 1985 following a 1-all draw over 60 minutes and extra time.

There were also three Premier final appearances in those early days with victories over Motherwell (1984) and Nottingham Forest (1992) when Charlie Millar scored twice. They also suffered defeat to Dublin’s Cherry Orchard in 1993.

The Ibrox club have been back at the event in recent years with former Northern Ireland international Andy Kirk involved in their coaching set up, while Celtic will be appearing for the first time in the Premier section.

The Hoops did feature in an Under-21 Section three years ago when they made the final only to lose 1-0 to Everton.

Last year two goals from striker Ewan Henderson helped Celtic come back from a goal down to beat Manchester United 3-1 in a one-off U-19 curtain raiser to the tournament.

“Securing the appearances of Celtic and Rangers is massive for our event,” said Tournament treasurer, Dr Tom Stark.

“There will again be enormous interest in these teams who have such a strong fan base not only in Northern Ireland but across the entire island.

The STATSports SuperCupNI has enjoyed a strong link with Scottish clubs since its inception in 1983. In total there have been eight Scottish successes over the years.

Motherwell were the first ever Premier winners and since then Rangers and Hearts have won twice with Dundee United also triumphing against Newcastle United.

Rangers and Dundee United have both landed a Junior title.

Dr Stark added, “Rangers return has been a major plus for us. Celtic have found their involvement in the challenge games beneficial and now want to offer their younger players the opportunity to sample a week-long tournament experience against international opposition.”

The STATSports SuperCupNI kicks off with its traditional parade of teams in Coleraine on Sunday, July 28 and conclude with the finals at Ballymena Showgrounds on Friday, August 2.