THE countdown to the start of the 34th Nutty Krust-sponsored under 19s’ Floodlit Cup kicked off last week with a launch day at Chambers Park.
The event is supported by clubs in Ulster and for the players taking part it offers the opportunity to be ‘spotted’ by the Ulster Academy set-up.
With the likes of Stephen Ferris and former Ulster star Matt McCullough both having played in the event previously, it supports the fact that the schools system is not the only way to progress through to the professional game.
The key part of the launch was the draw for first-round ties to take place at Chambers Park every Wednesday from February 6.
Organisers were encouraged to see two new entrants in the current formant, Newry and Lisburn, ensuring that a full quota of 16 was established.
Among those attending were Gary Longwell, Darryl O’Callaghan and Alistair Brown, who are involved in the Ulster set-up.
The Ulster Branch president, Robin Cole, was also present along with other officers - adding their support to a tournament which has been eagerly-contested by clubs at different levels over the year, before undertaking the under 19s’ format over the past decade.
Irwin’s Bakery’s sponsorship of the event has been key to the success of the tournament and provision of a loaf of bread to every player after each game is one of the unique highlights this competition has to offer.
The company chairman, Brian Irwin, assisted with the draw alongside the Ulster Branch president and tournament organisers, Willie Gribben and Barney McGonigle.
An open draw will take place at the end of each round and the quarter-finals will be known on March 27.
The draw is as follows: FEBRUARY 6: Newry v Instonians; FEBRUARY 13: Banbridge v Lisburn; FEBRUARY 20: Ballymena v Ballynahinch; FEBRUARY 27: Larne v Clogher Valley; MARCH 6: Randalstown v Malone; MARCH 13: Coleraine v Omagh; MARCH 20: Portadown v Lurgan; MARCH 27: Dungannon v Enniskillen.
All ties to start at 7.45, with the final on May 1.