AN EMOTIONAL Foyle Cup Chairman, Michael Hutton hailed the 25th running of the youth football tournament as a ‘magnificent success’.
The 2016 Hughes Insurance sponsored event came to a close with the traditional Finals Day at Brandywell Stadium on Saturday with victories for Scottish Premier League representatives, Celtic (U14) and Hearts (U16) and Irish League club, Glentoran (U12).
And despite the disappointment for the three local teams involved, Derry Colts and Donegal Schoolboys (U12s and U16s), Mr Hutton claimed this year’s competition proved an ‘invaluable’ experience for North West football teams.
“It was a hugely successful tournament and we’re delighted with it,” he said. “It was our biggest ever attendance in terms of the number of teams involved.
“And I would say it was probably our biggest attendances in terms of spectators as well and the weather certainly helped.
“I think for local football it’s been a magnificent success because in practically every age group we either had a Derry or a Donegal team in the Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup Finals.
I think for local football it’s been a magnificent success because in practically every age group we either had a Derry or a Donegal team in the Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup Finals.Michael Hutton
“So it shows you the work which is being done at underage level in this area is paying dividends.”
Memorable week for Donegal teams
Indeed, it was a hugely successful tournament for Donegal teams who experienced both joy and heartache on finals day.
In the Under-12 showpiece, Donegal Schoolboys lost out to a wonder strike by Glentoran midfielder Mathew Carson as the Belfast outfit clinched a 1-0 win.
The Donegal Schoolboys Under-13s enjoyed better fortune as they took the U13 title following a win over Oxford United while the U15s clinched the win against Tristar in the U15 final.
And in the Under-16 final, Donegal Schoolboys lost out 4-2 in a dramatic penalty shootout against Scottish Premier League outfit, Hearts’ academy side.
Donegal women were equally impressive as they clinched both under-11 and under-13 trophies.
Derry City meanwhile celebrated victory over Creggan boys, Trojans in the Under-17 final while the impressive Foyle Harps outfit lost out to Altrincham in the U19 decider.
So it was a richly rewarding experience for North West sides and Mr Hutton believes the success of the local clubs will benefit the city’s three senior clubs in the near future.
“That has to be good in the long term for the three senior clubs, Derry City, Finn Harps and Institute Football Club,” added Hutton.
“It’s an invaluable experience for these local teams. There are some top class sides here this week. We’ve had Partick Thistle and Celtic - two very entertaining teams. We’ve had Hearts who accounted for Donegal Schoolboys in the U16 final and play lovely football. So our boys are getting an education and rising to the challenge put up to them.
“I think they’ve met that challenge really, really well.”
Celtic retained their Under-14 title in the first of the three major finals at Brandywell. And the Celtic coaching staff were full of praise for the tournament organisers.
“I was talking to the Celtic manager before the game and he paid us the greatest compliment,” revealed Hutton. “He said he’s travelled all over the world, America, Dubai and he told me we have something unique in this city.
“He said it’s the best run, the best organised and the most friendly tournament he’s been involved with. He said the standard is exceptionally good both in terms of teams and surfaces. That speaks volumes when that comes from Celtic Football Club.
“The Milk Cup is a good tournament. There’s 48 teams in it but we have 310 teams and the fact we’re reaching out to so many people and families is fantastic.
“It’s very much a family orientated tournament and I think that’s what makes it so special.
“We also don’t charge entry fees to games. It’s a community festival and long may we maintain that.”
Hutton, a former referee, was presented with a commemorative glass by the Foyle Cup referees on the morning of the Finals.
And the tournament chairman said he was reduced to tears by the kind gesture.
“The abiding memory from this tournament for me actually came from the referees,” he explained.
“I was summoned to a room this morning and to celebrate the 25th year of the Foyle Cup I was given piece of cut glass from my colleagues. There was four of us who refereed the very first Foyle Cup event and I was choked. I went out of the room and shed tears. “They thanked me for all the work that I have done throughout the years. I’m not someone who looks for praise but it choked me.
“It was highly emotional because it came from my referee colleagues. It meant so much to me and was probably one the most endearing moments I’ve had in my life so far,” he concluded.