Over 4,000 young footballers, coaches and spectators converged upon Londonderry’s Guildhall Square yesterday as the biggest ever Foyle Cup officially kicked off with the traditional opening parade through the city.
Since its inception in 1992, the tournament, which began life as a one-day competition for only eight teams, has become one of Derry’s major success stories and this year a record 144 teams will compete in what is now one of Europe’s most highly regarded international youth soccer tournaments.
For tournament chairman, Michael Hutton, yesterday’s parade represented one of the highlights of the event.
“I take great pleasure in watching the parade through our city centre each year,” he explained.
“It brings together so many kids from all over Ireland, the UK, Europe and the rest of the world under the banner of sport. It’s great to see children from the Shankill, the Falls, the Fountain and the Bogside come together.
“Kids from the North, the South — kids of all colours, creeds, nationalities parade together under the banner of sport. Northern Ireland needs much more of this.
“When you consider the impact the recession is having on spending power globally, it is remarkable that this year we will have our highest-ever entry of teams including five teams travelling from Canada and America.”
Although there are a host of clubs from England, Scotland, Europe and the US, the chairman continues to maintain that Irish League and Airtricity League sides also come back year after year.
“Each year, the international appeal of the Foyle Cup is witnessed more and more as teams from far and beyond travel to the event,” he added.
“Whilst this interest is immensely important and pleasing, what is even more gratifying is that more and more of our senior Irish league and Airtricity league clubs recognise the opportunity being afforded them to prepare young players to compete against top class opposition.”
The opening games didn’t disappoint the large crowds gathered across the city and the teams ensured spectators had something to watch with an average of 3.5 goals per game in the opening sets of matches.
Hosts, Derry & District Youth League surprised their illustrious opponents from Barcelona, romping home with a resounding 6-1 victory at under-16.
It's far too early in the tournament to say who the main threats will be, but United States sides Everton America and Ramapo Valley looked well organised and defeated local outfits, Bertie Peacock Youth League and Inishowen Youth League respectively.
Barry Coyle ensured Armagh City got a point against ANB Soccer of Canada, cancelling out Mark Rancovic's opener.
Ryan Smith was the hero for Lisburn Distillery scoring the only goal against Waterford Schools League.
Championship side QPR delighted the crowds at the Vale Centre with a beautiful style of fast flowing creative football and proved too good for top Irish League team Glentoran and came away with a resounding 4-0 victory. Sean Molloy and Daniel McNulty ensured they off got to a
cracking start to the week with a 2-1 victory over a Ballymoney Select team who's consolation goal came from Daniel Laverty.
Fixtures for this year’s event can be viewed on tournament website www.foylecup.com