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Clubs hoping to find future stars at the Foyle Cup

By Adam McKendry

Published 18/07/2016

Big success: Northern Ireland's Paddy McNair played at the Foyle Cup
Big success: Northern Ireland's Paddy McNair played at the Foyle Cup

The Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup kicks off today and will feature its highest ever number of competitors as 310 teams descend upon the Foyle area to take part in the tournament.

The Foyle Cup began in 1992 as a one-day event that only eight teams attended, but has blossomed into one of the most popular tournaments across the British Isles, especially with scouts looking for potential future talent.

Scouts from Premier League clubs are regularly in attendance at matches and the tournament has an impressive success rate with players such as Northern Ireland's Paddy McNair and the Republic of Ireland's Robbie Keane, John O'Shea and Shay Given all earning their first contracts after impressing in the Cup.

More recently, in the last two years, no less than nine players have signed professional contracts with clubs in England and Wales, including Michael Martin of Charlton and Sean Quigley of Swansea.

One of the sides attending this year will be Brendan Rodgers' Celtic, who confirmed they will be sending over their Under-14 team to compete in the tournament that the former Liverpool boss himself played in as a member of the Derry & District Youth FS.

Organisers have also received numerous entries from clubs outside of the British Isles including FD Suomi from Finland and Everton America, who are based in New York.

The Foyle Cup also actively seeks to promote the women's game within Northern Ireland and this year will feature 28 women's teams - the largest number the competition has had since its inception.

The tournament will be held across many different venues in the North West such as Londonderry/Derry, Strabane, Limavady and Donegal, and is one of the premier events in the North West calendar.

Not only is it a major draw for sporting fans but it also provides a boost for tourism in the area with most hotels booked to full capacity for the week-long event, which ends on Saturday.

Former Republic of Ireland international John Giles acknowledged how important the tournament is to major clubs across the water.

He said: "So many of our current Irish team have come through the Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup.

"I know the immense importance placed 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 in it."

Ex-Leeds United star Giles added that he felt the Foyle Cup was a great example of the importance of football in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

"It is a wonderful testament to the strength of youth football in Ireland especially and a credit to all the people who have put so much work into it," said Giles.

Chairman of the Foyle Cup, Michael Hutton, pointed out how the tournament has gone from strength to strength despite the tough times it has had to endure.

"There can be no doubt the respect that the Foyle Cup has gained over the years," said Hutton.

"Our economy has been in recession and yet the tournament continues to grow and prosper.

"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."

There is certainly much to be proud of and over the next week there will be scores of scouts hoping to find young new talent to follow in the footsteps of McNair, Given and co.

Belfast Telegraph

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