Shay Given puts stamp on Foyle Cup passport
Shay Given has praised Londonderry's prestigious Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup for giving local children a chance to show scouts from English and Scottish clubs that they can play at a higher level.
The Aston Villa goalkeeper has hailed the tournament as a massive opportunity for young footballers in the city who don't have that many chances to show people what they can do and highlight their talents.
Speaking at the official launch of the 2014 competition at Londonderry's City Hotel, the Republic of Ireland's most capped goalkeeper said: "It's a massive honour for me to be asked to launch this tournament.
"I know of the importance of this event to so many young footballers from all over Ireland and the part that it has played in developing young players for international teams north and south."
Starring in the Derry and District League as a youngster with Townsend Youth, former Celtic, Manchester City and Newcastle goalkeeper Given, who was born just across the border in Lifford, revealed just how highly rated the Foyle Cup is amongst other Republic of Ireland alumnus.
"I know how highly former colleagues of mine in the Republic of Ireland International team feel about this event, as it was their passport into international football – players such as Robbie Keane, John O'Shea, Liam Millar, Andy Reid, Richard Dunne, Stephen Ireland, Damien Duff, to name but a few," he said.
The tournament has continued to grow in terms of numbers, marked by an impressive increase from 132 teams competing in the Foyle Cup in 2011 to 216 teams competing in last summer's tournament during Londonderry's reign as European City of Culture.
This summer will see a record number of 220 teams compete in the five-day Foyle Cup, no mean feat for a competition which began as an eight-team, one-day event way back in 1992.
Now one of Europe's largest youth tournaments, Michael Hutton, chairman of the organising committee, said: "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.
"This year is our highest entry ever."
Quick to commend the tournament's guest speaker Given, Hutton said: "It's great to have one of our local lads here launching the Foyle Cup, one who has made it big time in the game and a great example to our young people that if they work hard at the game, anything is possible.
"Shay Given has been a model player for both club and country.
"If you look at what the Derry and 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 and Institute, but there are so many local lads playing cross Channel football," he added, naming ex-Foyle Cup and Derry and District players such as Everton's Darron Gibson Aaron McEniff and Shane Duffy, Paddy McCourt – ex-Celtic, Rangers' Dean Shiels, Burnley's Daniel Lafferty and Wigan Athletic's James McClean.
Keith Robinson, Northern Ireland area manager for Hughes Insurance, said: "It's incredible to think the largest youth tournament in Europe is based here in Londonderry. It's such an opportunity for Northern Ireland and a privilege for us at Hughes Insurance to be involved."
The Foyle Cup kicks off in the Derry, Strabane and Limavady Council and surrounding areas on July 21 until July 26.