FOOTBALL: Youth tournament gets underway in the north west

The wait is finally over for the teams entered in the 2012 Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup as it formally kicked off in Derry yesterday, Monday , with the Opening Parade through Derry City centre following on today (Tuesday) at 11.15am.

This year witnesses the highest ever level of team entries with no fewer than 164 teams taking part, with teams travelling from America, Canada, England, Scotland and all over Ireland.

For tournament organiser, Michael Hutton, the huge entry of teams is pleasing but for him one of the highlights of the event each year is the Opening Parade.

“I take great pleasure in watching the parade through our city centre each year,” he said. “This parade brings together so many of our youth from all over Ireland under the banner of sport – kids from the Shankill, kids from the Falls, kids from the Fountain, kids from the Bogside, kids of all colours, creed, nationalities, all parade together under the banner of sport.

“Northern Ireland needs so much more of this experience. There is no better sight to the eyes than watching the parade of many colours marching down Shipquay Street to be greeted in Guildhall Square by our sponsors, Hughes Insurance, Seagate and Northern Ireland Tourist Board.”

The Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup is one of the most successful events organised in the city each year. As the city expectantly looks forward to City of Culture 2013 it is noted that the Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup event began as part of Impact ‘92 when community groups were similarly invited to organise an event to attract visitors and showcase the city. It is the only event which continued each year since ’92 and it has continued to prosper and grow.

In addition to competition at U10, U11, U12, U14, U16 and U19 there will also be an U13, U15 and Ladies event this year, acknowledging the huge growth in the development of ladies football in Ireland over the past few years.

Mr Hutton continued: “There has been much discussion in local football about increasing the opportunity for more of our top clubs, north and south, to compete in an all Ireland challenge cup competition. In organising the under-19 we want to give clubs this opportunity and at the same time create a much needed stepping stone from schoolboy to senior soccer for our 19 year olds, for whom we feel there is a serious shortage of organised competition.”

The Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup was recently described by Northern Ireland team manager Michael O Neill as one of the best youth tournaments in Europe and a platform for many youth into the professional game. This is evident in the quality of teams competing over the past few years.

Tournament Chairman, Michael Hutton points to the fact that not only will large crowds attend the matches but the number of scouts coming to the event is increasing every year

“The interest in the Foyle Cup tournament has been immense. I know that clubs are impressed by the standard of competition and by the high quality of organisation but they also experience such a warmth of welcome during their stay in this city, so much so that all leave with the strong intention of returning.

“Each year I notice more and more scouts attending the competition. This year I have been as busy organising accommodation for scouts as I have been for teams. The top clubs such as Man Utd, Celtic, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea will have 4/5 scouts in attendance as well as many club scouts from the Scottish and Championship teams It’s no wonder when you consider the number of footballers now plying their trade in the professional game who made their debut in the Foyle Cup tournament.

The Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup tournament is supported by Derry City Council, Limavady Borough Council, Strabane District Council, Nortern Ireland Tourist Board, University of Ulster, Dept for Social Development, Sports Council for N . Ireland,, E&I Engineering, White Horse Hotel, Derry Credit Union, Bruswick Suoperbowl.