The annual Festival of football throughout the North West will kick off with an amazing 853 matches in six days as the North West prepares to welcome thousands of young players and visitors to the 2015 Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup.
The tournament, which will run from July 20th to July 25th inclusive, will see fixtures across Derry, Strabane, Limavady and Donegal as teams from as far away as Finland, Canada and America joins their counterparts from across Ireland in what is a record entry of 278 teams. That figure includes 24 female teams as the competitions continues to support the development of the Ladies game.
And as Foyle Cup Chairman, Michael Hutton, explains, the competition has grown into one of the area’s pivotal annual events.
“Local hotels are reporting, more than ever before, that all the major clubs in Britain are booking scouts into hotels,” explained Mr Hutton.
“The likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs, Sunderland, Celtic, Rangers and many others will each have several scouts in the city focusing on what Irish talent is available.”
Some of the players who have forged a professional career for themselves after starring in the local competition is testament to Mr Hutton’s belief. Players such as Robbie Keane, Darron Gibson, Shay Given, Paddy McCourt, Daniel Lafferty and James McClean have all appeared at the Foyle Cup.
“There can be no doubt about the respect that the Foyle Cup has gained over the years,” continues Mr Hutton. “Our economy has been in a deep recession and yet the tournament continues to prosper. This year we have 278 teams competing, which had been our highest entry. The entry level in terms of the number of teams competing has doubled in the last four years.
“This level of interest generates huge spending in the local economy, estimated to be in excess of £1,600,000.
“Why do so many teams want to identify with the event? I believe there are a number of factors. The warmth and hospitality afforded all its visitors by the local people; the quality of service and accommodation provided by local hoteliers and B&Bs; the high standard of playing surface evident throughout the event; the friendly yet competitive nature of the football and the planning, administration and organisation that goes into the event.
“There are no paid employees in the Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup - just a band of volunteers who strive hard to put on an event that all of us can be proud of and which puts forward a positive image of our city and the North West region.”
Former Irish International Kevin Kilbane was in Londonderry recently for the official launch of the 2015 event and spoke in glowing terms about a competition he competed in as a young player.
“So many of our current Irish team have come through the Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup,” explained Kilbane, “I know the immense importance place on this event by professional clubs in England and Scotland, as each club ensures their scouts are in attendance throughout the week.
“This is a high profile competition which is obvious from the clubs involved and it’s a wonderful testament to the strength of youth football in this region and a credit to all the people who have put so much work into it.
“I know the years of preparation that go into coaching the best out of young players for this tournament. It’s a great experience and preparation for players who will go onto gain professional contracts with cross Channel clubs.”
Mr Hutton also acknowledged all those who are contributing to ensure the event will be as successful as it was in previous years - Derry City and Strabane District Council, Department for Social Development, Department of Culture & Leisure, Tourism NI, Limavady Borough Council, OFMDFM, Hughes Insurance, Legea, Seagate, E&I Engineering, PSNI, Inner City Trust, Brunswick Superbowl and Derry Credit Union.
More details regarding this year’s event can be viewed at www.foylecup.com or Tel 02871359734