From the ‘Big Apple’ to the O’Neill’s Foyle Cup parade in Derry, Seamus McDaid this week fulfilled his school boy dream.
The US based Lansdowne Bhoys coach has had a direct connection with the week long festival of football since his family business, McDaid’s Football Special, sponsored the competition eight years ago.
However McDaid’s love affair with the summer youth tournament, which this year has over 400 teams competing, goes back much further than eight years.
And this year, Seamus went into management to ensure he was part of the tournament as he brought the New York club back to a tournament they first visited under the guidance of ex-Institute and Limavady United striker, Austin Friel.
“Austy brought the boys over three years ago. It was a different team, maybe a year older than the current team and after that we said we would absolutely come back again. We started two summers ago to organise things,” he confirmed.
“We had tour of Glasgow Celtic in Scotland and then we said the next trip we would go on was back to the Foyle Cup.
“Austin got us started in terms of bringing the boys over but I have been involved in the Foyle Cup before as my family business is ‘Football Special’ and we sponsored the competition in 2011. Even when I was a kid growing up and playing for Swilly Rovers, I always wanted to play in the Foyle Cup but I was never good enough to do it, so I figured I needed to get on the coaching staff to ensure I was involved (laughs)!
“Now I can finally say I walked in the Foyle Cup parade,” he joked.
The Yonkers’ U12 squad suffered a heavy loss to Sheffield United on Tuesday but McDaid - who is sponsoring tonight’s Finn Harps versus Derry City derby at Ballybofey and also playing his part in Derry’s forthcoming Golf Classic, which takes place at North West Golf Club on Saturday September 21st - believes the Foyle Cup experience will benefit the squad while lining out against English Premier League academy players will live long in his squad’s memory.
“The Foyle Cup is incredibly,” he insisted.
“We do some tournaments in America but they are on just one big complex of fields, but this is an event the whole city and surrounding area is involved in.
“The parade is a great spectacle, but it’s more about everybody from the city getting involved with matches all over the place on pitches, which are all in unbelievable condition as opposed to going to one big professional complex that’s kind of soulless. The Foyle Cup is simply an amazing experience.
“The players will forget all the tournaments we do in Jersey Shore but they’ll never forget this experience. We are very lucky to be here and the boys are very lucky to be part of it.
“A lot of the tournaments we do in the States are seeded and that’s fine. People say that you get to play at your level but the thing I really enjoy about this tournament is that it eventually cuts off and you find your level.
“I don’t really mind losing to a good team like Sheffield United at this stage of the tournament because we know by the end of the week we’ll play teams at our level. However, to get the boys experience of playing a Premier League academy side is great. It shows the players that if they ever want to get to that level, then they know how good they have to get to.
“As I said, by the end of the week, we’ll start playing teams that are probably more at our level but getting the chance to play professional clubs is better than seeding teams because then we never get to test ourselves.
“We are never going to beat Sheffield United, but as a team it’s not important but some of our boys think they are good enough to go on in the game. Today was a real eye opener when you see the level Sheffield United are at. Overall, however, the Foyle Cup is a terrific experience for us and I’m sure Lansdowne will send more teams in the future because it’s such a good trip.”
McDaid and his fiancee, Jillian Ruggiere, have now moved from New York to Ramelton as Seamus becomes the fourth generation of his family to take over Football Special operations in Ireland.
“I’m a Ramelton man who emigrated to New York and I’m just back in Ramelton three weeks ago,” he confirmed.
“I’m back full-time and getting involved with Football Special. I looked after our operations in America and now I’m back here to look after our Irish operations so it’s an exciting time as we have launched an ice-cream range which is in all the Sandwich Company’s outlets in Derry and has been a huge success.
“We have set things up in America and are trading there. I have a guy bottling in the US and another wholesaler selling Football Special so now I can return to Donegal and look after operations which is great. It’s a really exciting time in my life, but, yeah, it’s a big change coming back from New York to Ramelton.
“It’s been a change of pace but I’m the fourth generation of the family to be involved and hopefully there will be four more generations after me.”
The recent high temperatures and great weather has also helped family life back in Ireland.
“I can’t believe the weather, I brought my American fiancee with me three weeks ago and she keeps on asking me, ‘When is the summer going to start?’ Now I’m in Derry and the weather is great and she isn’t here - I can’t believe it,” he laughed
“My fiancee also moved over from New York and she is getting settled into life in Ramelton. It’s so far, so good and we haven’t any complaints at the minute.”