The 26 year-old former Derry City and Shamrock Rovers star knows full-well the influence the Foyle Cup tournament can have on a young player having enjoyed his first taste of tournament football at the event as a youngster.
"I was delighted to be asked to be honest because it was a massive tournament as a part of my career when I started playing football. It was the one thing you always looked forward to every summer.
"I played in it from under-11 right up until U16 and at that age you're just a young boy playing with your mates and enjoying your football. It was the first time you felt like a proper footballer. You go and get your training kit, get your tracksuit and you've got the parade and all your family are coming out to watch you, it's just a brilliant occasion for the city and puts a smile on people's faces."
It's been a memorable tournament for the McEneff family, with Aaron's younger brothers Jordan and Nathan both playing in previous years. In fact Nathan enjoyed success with Derry Colts in the U16 Final against Inishowen League in 2015 at the Brandywell Stadium, scoring a stunning winning strike which Aaron recalls fondly.
"What a goal that was by the way!," he smiled. "It's a brilliant occasion for everyone involved. Those moments like those with my brother, you're never going to forget them."
"It's brilliant for your development and it's a great showcase because you're playing against really good teams and as you go up the age groups scouts start coming out to watch players and it's a massive showcase for any youngster to go and show their talent. That was the case around U14 level for me.
"That's when I started to kick on in my football career. My career has gone on to England, Derry, Shamrock Rovers and now Hearts. Football is a crazy journey but it's one I wouldn't change.
"Derry and the Northwest have a massive footballing culture so I’m confident all the boys and girls will have a brilliant week and I want to wish them the best of luck competing in this year’s event.”
The tournament will run from 18th July to 23rd July and the draw has now been confirmed. A total of 455 teams have signed up for this year's Foyle Cup in what marks a record number of entries. Matches will be staged in the Derry, Strabane and Causeway Coast & Glens Council areas as clubs from across Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, mainland Europe, America and Asia go head-to-head.
Foyle Cup Secretary Philip Devlin added: “It’s fantastic to be able to host this prestigious tournament once again, and what’s even better is that the anticipation this year has been higher than ever following a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. We can’t wait for the 2022 edition to get underway and we’re delighted to have secured a successful local footballer in Aaron McEneff to take part in the press launch.”
The Foyle Cup is a key highlight in the Northwest's calendar with several sponsors and partners helping to bring the event together, including title sponsor O’Neills, Tourism NI, The Executive Office, Derry City and Strabane District Council, Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Seagate, Brunswick Moviebowl, Derry Credit Union, Ulster University and Inner City Trust.
The Foyle Cup has also been further boosted this year with the approval of £16,000 worth of funding from the Department for Communities.
Deirdre Hargey, Department for Communities Minister, commented: “I am very pleased my Department has been able to provide £16,000 support to this prestigious international youth football tournament which is being held in the Northwest. It is an excellent opportunity for the boys and girls to showcase their football talents, to create and promote new friendships and enjoy the benefits that sport can bring.”
of the O’Neills Foyle Cup. We have been sponsors of the event since 2018 and from our first conversations with Foyle Cup committee we knew our joint passion for local football was going to make it a great fit. As the largest and leading sportswear manufacturer on the island of Ireland, we are passionate about sport and empowering players of all levels to achieve their best.
The O’Neills Foyle Cup provides a platform for young players to showcase their skills and it’s a great way for us to support grassroots talent. We look forward to welcoming teams and visitors from the Foyle Cup into our store on Waterloo Place during the weeklong festival of football in the city."
For more information on the O’Neills Foyle Cup 2022, please visit foylecup.com