FOYLE CUP Chairman, Michael Hutton is delighted with the continued growth of the popular tournament as the 25th annual youth football festival officially kicks-off tomorrow with the traditional parade.
Thousands of young people are expected to converge on Derry’s Guildhall Square for the colourful parade of teams which make their way from Ulster University’s Magee Campus from 11 a.m.
The popular competition continues to grow in strength with a record entry of 310 teams including Scottish giants, Celtic who get their tournament underway when their U14 representatives meet Donegal Schoolboys today at Brooke Park (Kick-off 5 p.m.)
English club, Norwich have also returned this year and they play Oliver Plunkett U15s at Ardmore, also at 5 p.m.
New York’s Everton America, managed by former Institute goalkeeper, Marty Walker, take on Foyle Harps at U16 level also at 5p.m. at Leafair while Derry City U17s begin with a trip to Newbuildings to take on the local side at 7 pm. The Candystripes’ U19s meet Oldpark Reds at Wilton Park, also at 7 p.m.
With almost 5,000 young footballers from aged nine to 19 expected to parade through the city centre tomorrow to mark the official start of this year’s tournament, organiser, Mr Hutton is looking forward to the ‘prolonged celebration’ following the success of the recent Maritime Festival which came to a close in the city on Sunday.
“This is the 25th year of competition so it’s nice to have the highest ever entry of 310 teams - many of whom are well established friends of the Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup in that they’re coming annually,” said Mr Hutton.
“But even with that growth it shows we’re bringing in new blood to the event every year.
“It follows the Clipper Maritime Festival so it’s a prolonged celebration for the city. Only this time it’s youth football orientated. We’re pleased the weather has been good as it gets underway.”
With Celtic returning, the ‘Hoops’ are certain to prove one of the biggest attractions of this year’s event, but Mr Hutton believes there will be plenty of attractive football played at the various venues around the North West over the next five days.
“It shows how attractive the tournament is,” he continued. “Let’s not forget that Celtic manager, Brendan Rodgers actually played in the Derry & District Youth Football Association for four seasons.
“We were part of his development at youth level. It’s particularly pleasing for us that he endorses the Foyle Cup tournament as a development tournament for the young kids associated with Celtic Football Club.
“We also have other great football clubs here. Hearts are great friends of ours too. They’re back in the Premier League in Scotland.
We’re know as the ‘Friendship Cup’ and that’s no matter of coincidence because of the way the tournament is run.Michael Hutton
“It’s tournaments like this which help clubs like Hearts, Norwich, Sheffield United and Partick Thistle.
“They develop young players for their own club and likewise for Irish League and Airtricity League clubs, it’s the opportunity for them to pit the best of their kids with the best of the professional clubs in England and Scotland.
“We also have two clubs from New York. We have Everton America and Landsdowne Boys, so it’s nice to know the name of the Foyle Cup travels worldwide.
“We have the parade tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. departing Magee Campus on Northland Road. You’re talking 4,500 or 5,000 young people from nine to 19 in a colourful celebration of what this week means to them.
“For me personally that’s what the tournament is all about. It doesn’t matter about colour, creed, religion or anything else. It’s about enjoying it and making friends.
“We’re know as the ‘Friendship Cup’ and that’s no matter of coincidence because of the way the tournament is run,” he concluded.