Our reporter Tommy Nethery kicks off our new ‘Big Match Memory’ series by looking back at the day that the next generation of Manchester United superstars were sent packing by Tyrone in a Milk Cup game in Castlederg.
For a little over an hour on Saturday afternoon, July 21, 2012, Darragh Park – the home of Dergview Football Club – was transformed into a ‘Theatre of Dreams’. Not, as expected, because a star-studded Red Devils had strutted their stuff on a pristine playing surface but because Tyrone’s finest had produced a shock of gargantuan proportions to defeat the next generation of Old Trafford superstars.
A 31st minute wonder strike by Red Hand skipper Jamie Glackin and substitute Cathal McShane’s thumping first time volley on the hour mark provided one of the greatest shocks in the 30-year history of the famed international youth tournament.
However it was no fluke result, it was richly deserved. Richly deserved because Tommy Canning’s well drilled charges maintained their shape, discipline and, to an extent, their composure for the entirity of the 70 plus minutes.
Richly deserved because the home county had displayed a greater passion and belief than their illustrious opponents.
And richly deserved because the Red Hand under-17s had worked their proverbial socks off.
Luck had nothing to do with it. Tyrone’s game plan had been executed to perfection and Paul McGuinness’s young Red Devils which included the likes of Andreas Pereira, James Wilson, Sean Goss and Northern Ireland international Paddy McNair, failed to find any answers.
Reflecting on that momentous occasion, manager Canning said he and his players had talked about creating history in the build up to the game and everything on the day went almost exactly to plan.
“Photos from day pop up every year on my timeline and there is no doubt it was an incredible day for all the boys involved,” said the Strabane man.
“Any time I see an interview with Tyrone player Cathal McShane I always think about him coming on that day and scoring the second goal. And who will ever forget Jamie Glackin’s unbelieveable opener, what a strike.
“There are a whole lot of wee things that stand out from that day. Jarlath O’Rourke went off with a busted nose in the first half and that was a big loss for us.
“Kris Lowe played centre-back that day and never kicked a ball in the Milk Cup after it because he had pulled a muscle off the bone.
“You think of the United players who went onto play first team football at United, Pereira, Wilson, McNair, there are contant reminders all the time
“It was an incredible day, it was the first time a county team had ever beaten Man United up to that point.
“I also remember Paul McGuinness, the United manager coming into Darragh Park that day and saying to me, ‘I see you have had the pitch narrowed’.
“And so we had. Ahead of the game I had asked Roy and Nigel Lecky to pull the pitch in five yards either side. McGuinness knew, I don’t know how, but he knew.
“The message to the players was along the lines if you can pull off the unthinkable this memory will live with you forever.
“The players lapped it up, they were so into it, so focused in the lead up to the game, so tuned in. An incredible day.”
United, as expected, made the early running with defender Nicholas Loannou striding forward to curl a shot inches over Jack Boggs’s crossbar.
Wilson then fired narrowly wide before Tyrone attackers Tom Carlin and Aaron Patterson both threatened to break the deadlock.
That honour though belonged to Glackin who just after the half hour mark latched onto a ball and fired a spectacular 25-yard screamer to the top left hand corner of Pierluigi Gollini’s net.
Tyrone had thrown down the gauntlet and a massive crowd were anticipating a United backlash in the second half. But it never materalised.
Sam Byrne dragged a shot wide, defender Louis Rawley did likewise before United skipper Joe Rothwell had a stinging effort pushed around a post by Boggs.
The Tyrone rearguard of Eamon Ferguson, Shay Duffy, O’Rourke, who was replaced by Matty Young, and Lowe remained rock solid with the midfield trio of Glackin, Gary Henderson and Conal Crawford working overtime.
Up top Patterson, Carlin and Ross Lavery hassled and harried the United defence and 10 minutes from time Tyrone put the seal on an historic victory by netting a crucial second. Patterson nodded down a Glackin free kick and replacement McShane smashed an unstoppable volley past Gollini.
United responded by pressing to the death. A sublime pass by Wilson for once carved apart the Tyrone defence but Boggs did brilliantly to get a hand to the ball in thwarting highly-rated substitute Goss.
Nothing though was going to spoil Tyrone’s day and the home county held on to record their own very special chapter in Milk Cup history.
Boggs; Ferguson; Duffy; Lowe; O’Rourke (Young 25); Crawford (McKelvey 58); Glackin (McConnell 70); Henderson; Lavery (McShane 52); Carlin (Teague 66); Patterson.
Subs not used: Donaghy; Connolly.
Gollini; McConnell (Harrop 54); Rawley; Grimshaw; Laonnou (McNair 19); Pearson; Weir; Rothwell; Byrne; Wilson; Pereira (Goss 60).
Subs not used: Redmond; O’Hara; Willock; Fletcher.
Tim Marshall (Irvinestown)