With only two weeks to go, the countdown to the Northern Ireland Milk Cup 2012 has begun in earnest.
Last week the Fermanagh Milk Cup committee held its Parents Night, an informational evening at which it was outlined to the parents of the 36 young footballers selected to represent Fermanagh all that goes into Milk Cup week.
The meeting was also attended by Victor Leonard, chairman of the Northern Ireland Milk Cup Committee and Jim Sandford, secretary of the Northern Ireland Milk Cup.
Victor Leonard praised the current committee for their hard work, especially in staging the opening games in Fermanagh and wished all the young players every success.
The players also received their kit for the forthcoming tournament which kicks off on Saturday, July 21 with a double header at Ferney Park, Ballinamallard.
The captains of both teams also received their armbands for the tournament with Gareth Carrothers named the Premier team captain and Ciaran Smith will lead the Junior team.
Indeed, John Quinn's Premier side played their last game ahead of the competition last Friday night when they took on Ballinamallard U19s, who are themselves preparing for the Foyle Cup, at the Bawnacre.
It was a game won 2-1 by the Mallards but Quinn was pleased with the run out for his side against a quality opposition.
"I would have been pleased with the performance as even though we lost it was a fairly even game against a good strong opposition. The Ballinamallard boys are a couple of years older so it was a good work out and the boys are sticking to what we have asked them to do and are applying themselves well," said Quinn.
And from now to the start of the Milk Cup on Saturday July 21 when Fermanagh will face English giants Newcastle United at Ferney Park it will be a matter of fine tuning for the squad. The squad travelled to Bundoran for a session on the beach on Tuesday and the focus next week will be on the opening game.
"That's the last game we will play before the competition. We have a couple of sessions planned for the weekend and then we will be giving them the majority of next week off to recharge the batteries and get ready for the game," he said.
It was Premier side who took the early lead with a good goal from Christopher Nixon. He beat a defender before rounding the goalkeeper and slotting home for 1-0.
Ballinamallard leveled maters when Johnny Hoy tucked away John Currie's cross but Fermanagh could have regained the lead before the break with Johnny Courtney rattling the post from an effort and Jamie Lee Fawcett heading over the bar.
The second half was evenly contested but it was Ballinamallard who were to go on and grab the win midway through the half as James Turley crossed for Andy Little to score as the Mallards finished up 2-1 winners.
Fermanagh Junior manager Gerry Love has reported no injury concerns ahead of the Milk Cup as he puts the final touches to his preparations for the competition.
Love's side took on Strabane in Strabane last night and he hopes to fit in one more game at the weekend before they finalise their plans for the opening game against Cruz Azul.
"We've no injuries, everybody's fit and hopefully that will continue through to the competition. The boys have been working hard and if we can now get a couple of competitive matches under our belts as well I would be pleased," he commented.
With the hard work nearly completed, the squad have been working on set pieces and Love is close to being decided on his starting line up for the first game although he is still keen to play another game and try a number of things out.
"I would be close to knowing the starting side but we're still looking to get the right balance and if things don't go well we will know exactly what to do to change things," he said.