James McClean hails Foyle Cup as '˜massive opportunity' for young footballers
West Bromwich Albion and Republic of Ireland international, James McClean was the special guest of honour at the 25th anniversary launch of the International Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup in the Waterfoot Hotel.
McClean, a former Derry & District Youth FA player with Trojans FC played in the Foyle Cup competition from age 12 up until 19 years-old before signing professional terms with Derry City. He went on to secure a move to the English Premier League with Sunderland. Having spent two seasons at Wigan Athletic, the Creggan man now plys his trade with West Brom and has established himself as a regular in the Republic of Ireland starting XI.
Fresh from helping earn a crucial 1-1 draw against Austria in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying group match at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday, McClean praised the Foyle Cup event for providing an ‘excellent pathway into professional football’ for local kids.
“It’s a massive honour for me to be asked to launch this tournament,” said James. “Obviously I’ve played in the competition over many years and coming from Derry, it gave me the opportunities that got me to where I am today.
“This event has grown so much in stature and importance that I believe the tournament has become an excellent pathway into professional football for many local kids.
“No matter where you travel in football, when you say you come from Derry, people immediately mention the Foyle Cup event, it is so well known and highly respected throughout Ireland and Europe.
”Young footballers in the city don’t have that many chances to showcase their talents. Taking part in the Foyle Cup gives them the chance to show scouts from England and Scotland that they can play at a higher level. So it’s a massive opportunity for the young lads.”
The Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup tournament will take place in the Derry, Strabane and Causeway Coast & Glens Council areas from July 17th to July 22nd with a record 345 teams competing in this year’s event.
Considering that the Foyle Cup began as an eight-team, one-day event in 1992, it is a significant achievement that it has now grown into one of the largest youth tournaments - a point not lost on the sponsors Hughes Insurance, Don Brennan Head of Marketing, Strategy and Pricing.
“This is our sixth year supporting the Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup and it’s an event we all look forward to each year – not just because it’s one of the largest youth football tournaments in Europe but because of the real sense of community and the carnival atmosphere that descends on Derry during Foyle Cup week.
“A particular sense of pride for us is the opportunity this tournament affords the young players from the local area in terms of competing against some of the game’s biggest teams and showcasing their skills in front of talent scouts.
“This tournament represents the epitome of what we’re trying to achieve – a tournament now in its 25th year, grown from eight to well over 340 teams and aimed at bringing young footballers from across NI and beyond together to participate and enjoy the game.”
Chairman of the organising committee, Mr. Michael Hutton, extended his thanks to the guest of honour, McClean who, he stated, is the perfect example of a Foyle Cup success story:
“It’s great to have one of our local lads here launching the Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup. James is a great example to all our local footballers in what he has achieved already in his career, not least as a professional footballer playing in the Premier League in England but even more so, in so proudly captaining his country and thus far picking up 52 International caps, with undoubtedly many more to come. We extend our thanks to him for being with us this evening. Irrespective of which club anyone supports in this city, all of us are delighted and proud of James’ achievements in football.
“If you look at what the Derry & District Youth FA is doing with our kids, you can see the immense benefit it is to so many clubs. Not only are we supplying the majority of players for Derry City FC and Institute FC- and quite a few to Coleraine FC- but there are so many local lads playing cross Channel football including: Darron Gibson, James McClean, Daniel Lafferty Shane Duffy; Seamus Coleman, Eunan O’Kane, Shay Given, Sean Mullan, Shane Ferguson, Michael Kennedy and Michael Martin – all of whom played their football in the Derry & District Youth League, in the Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup, in addition to players such as Robbie Keane and John O’Shea, to name but a few.
“We are delighted with year’s entry - whatever we are doing, we are doing right when you consider that Ireland is a very small city in terms of the size of countries in the globe, and Derry but a full stop and yet this year we have no fewer than eight teams from America joining us to compete against Celtic, Hearts, Partick Thistle, Hamilton Academicals, Sheffield Utd, Norwich City, As Dammartin (France) Tus Altenberge (Germany) and FD Suomi (Finland).”
The Chairman concluded his address by extending his sincere thanks to the Foyle Cup sponsors. “The Foyle Cup each year stages an international youth soccer event of high standing. This cannot happen without the support of sponsors and I would like to thank all our sponsors - Tourism N.I. The Executive Office, Dept. For Communities, Derry & Strabane District Council, Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council, Hughes Insurance, Seagate, Brunswick Moviebowl, Derry Credit Union and Inner City Trust - and in doing so I would call on our own Council to recognise what our voluntary efforts in organising this wonderful event brings to our city – in excess of £2,000.000 spending in local economy. We undoubtedly deserve an increase in the level of funding afforded the event - funding which has remained the same for the past 11 years despite a quadrupling of the number of teams competing.”