EVERTON midfielder, Darron Gibson, has hailed Londonderry’s prestigious Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup tournament as a ‘massive opportunity’ for local footballers to showcase their talents when watched by a plethora of visiting scouts from English Premiership clubs.
Commenting at the official launch of the 2013 international youth competition at The Tower Hotel on Thursday evening, the 25-year-old - who once starred in the tournament with both the Derry & District team and Dungannon Swifts - believes the tournament can become an excellent pathway into professional football.
The competition has certainly proved to be a major platform for local footballers in the past.
Former players discovered at the event include Seamus Coleman, Robbie Keane, Stephen Ireland and John O’Shea. Gibson, who has enjoyed the best season in his career to date, heaped praise on the tournament for building a platform to launch his career at both club and international level.
“It’s a massive honour for me to be asked to launch this tournament,” said the Republic of Ireland international. “Obviously I’ve played in the competition and coming from Derry it gave me the opportunities that got me to where I am today.
“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.
“I played twice in the Foyle Cup, once for the Derry & District team and once for the Dungannon Swifts and I thoroughly enjoyed both occasions. It provided me with a lot of the opportunities I got in the years afterwards. I really enjoyed playing in the Foyle Cup, it was a great experience and it made me a better player.”
The Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup tournament will take place in the Derry, Strabane and Limavady Council and surrounding areas from July 22nd to 27th with a record 216 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.
Brian McDowell, Head of Sales and Marketing at Hughes Insurance, commented: “We are delighted to be title sponsors of the Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup especially as the eyes of the world are firmly focused on this great city throughout 2013. We believe the Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup is the greatest youth football tournament in Europe and the impact it has on those who come to either take part or spectate, is not to be underestimated. The football, hospitality and goodwill on display throughout the city will, as ever, be of the very highest standard and Hughes Insurance is proud to be a part of what promises to be the most successful Foyle Cup yet.”
Chairman of the organising committee, Mr. Michael Hutton, has been impressed at the growing numbers of teams taking part, particularly the participants from local Irish League and League of Ireland clubs.
“I look forward to this competition every year, but particularly this year. It’s interesting to note that in a time of recession our numbers are actually up on last year. We had 132 teams two years ago, last year 164 teams and now we have 216 teams.”
Mr Hutton extended his thanks to the guest of honour, Darron Gibson who, he believes, 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 who has actually made it in the game and it’s a great example to our young people that if they work hard at the game, anything is possible.
“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 but there are so many local lads playing cross Channel football including: Darron Gibson (Everton); Paddy McCourt (Celtic); James McClean (Sunderland); Dean Shiels (Rangers); Daniel Lafferty (Burnley); Shane Duffy (Everton); Saul Deeney (Derby County); Cormac Burke (Ipswich); Shay Given (Aston Villa); Sean Mullan (Sheff Wednesday); Aaron McEneff (Spurs); Caoimhin Bonner (Kilmarnock); Michael Kennedy and Michael Martin (both Charlton Athletic) – all of whom played their football with the Derry & District Youth FA and in the Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup.”
“Darron Gibson is a great example to all our local footballers. He has achieved so much already in his career and we extend our thanks to him for being with us this evening. Irrespective which club anyone supports in this city, all of us are delighted and proud of Darron’s achievements.”
The Chairman concluded his address by extending his sincere thanks to the Foyle Cup sponsors.
“The Foyle Cup cannot happen just on account of the willingness of local people. We need sponsorship and I would like to thank all our sponsors: Hughes Insurance; Derry City Council; Strabane District Council; Limavady Borough Council; Department of Culture Arts & Leisure; Department for Social Development; Culture Company; Northern Ireland Tourist Board; Seagate; PSNI; Brunswick Superbowl; E&I Engineering; and Derry Credit Union.”
For more details of draw see website www.foylecup.com.