Tournament Chairman Michael Hutton praised the Foyle Cup’s continued growth after the 2013 competition kicked off last night with 216 teams due to compete over the course of the next four days.
The tournament’s official opening parade will wind it’s wayacross the Peace Bridge to Guildhall Square this morning as thousands of young players descend on the city for a competition that promises to be one of the highlights of Derry’s City of Culture calendar.
With games all across the North West including Bready, Burndennet, Limavady, Dungiven, Eglinton, Greysteel, Ballykelly, Killea, St Johnstone, Buncrana, Cockhill, Moville, Greencastle and Burt, the popularity of the Foyle Cup among teams and supporters is illustrated by the crowds attending games and Mr. Hutton sees no reason why that trend won’t continue this year.
“To think that in 2011 we had 132 teams; 2012 witnessed an entry of 164 teams and this year we will have our biggest ever entry of 216 teams,” explained the competition Chairman.
“The growth of the Foyle Cup is a true success story for all of us here in Derry City. It has been amazing to note the ever growing interest in this event which began as a one day 8-team tournament in 1992 and now has developed into a truly international festival of football. No matter where I have gone in the city, over the past few weeks, all I hear from families is their pride that their son, daughter, nephew, niece, cousin, grandson, grand-daughter is playing in the tournament and how many people locally have booked time off work to witness the event.
“We have had a great year of celebration thus far in 2013 and no doubt there will be even more joyous celebrations during this week with the Foyle Cup tournament. It is great to witness all the events that have taken place already in the City of Culture and it’s my sincere hope that many of these events will be repeated in 2014.
“I have always maintained that, as a city, we have nothing to learn about welcoming visitors. It is part of our natural behaviour.”
As well as spectators, the event attracts a huge number of scouts, anxious to discover the next local Darron Gibson, James McClean, Paddy McCourt or Seamus Coleman, something the Chairman believes adds to the allure of the tournament for young players.
“Whilst the Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup has been a passport into professional football for the likes of Robbie Keane, Stephen Ireland, John O Shea, Kevin Kilbane, indeed many of our current Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland international players have played in the tournament - we in the Derry & District Youth FA are delighted that our event has been a route into professional football for so many of our local players.”
Mr Hutton said the tournament continued had become even more important to the city as the local economy struggled with the global recession.
“There can be no doubt about the respect The Foyle Cup has gained over the years. Our economy has been in a deep recession for the past five or six years and yet the tournament continues to prosper. This year we have 216 teams competing. Why do so many teams want to identify with the event? There are a number of factors which have contributed to this growth. The warmth and hospitality afforded all its visitors by the local people; the quality of service and accommodation provided by local hoteliers and B&Bs; the high standard of the playing surfaces evident throughout the event; the friendly yet competitive nature of the football played and lastly, but by no means least, the planning, administration and organisation that goes into the event by so many of us who give of our services in a totally voluntary basis.
“There are no paid employees in the Foyle Cup – just a band of volunteers who strive to put on an event that all of us can be proud of and which puts forward a positive image of our city and the North West region.”
In conclusion Mr Hutton said the high standard of entry in this year’s event ensured spectators would witness a superb week of football as the competition runs towards Saturday’s finale,
“Many of the clubs featuring in this year’s event at youth level, are also competing in Europe in the Champion’s League or Europa League; Celtic, Hibernians, Clifonville, Glentoran, Crusaders and Derry City to name but a few.
“We talk about the ‘healing process’ in N. Ireland and I think this can best be achieved through our young people and sporting events like the Foyle Cup tournament are is a great vehicles for delivering such objectives. No matter what religion, creed or colour, everyone is made welcome in competing in the Foyle Cup tournament. Witness of this is the joyous, colourful celebratory parade that takes place to announce the opening of our event.”
Mr Hutton acknowledged the support afforded the event by Derry City Council, Department for Social Development, Department of Culture & Leisure, Sport NI, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Limavady Borough Council, Strabane District Council, Hughes Insurance, Seagate, E&I Engineering, PSNI Foyle Branch, Brunswick Superbowl and Derry Credit Union.
More details regarding this year’s event can be viewed on tournament website www.foylecup.com, live updates throughout the week at www.facebook.com/foylecupfootball or by contacting tournament office Monday - Saturday at Tel 02871359734