George Best Community Cup: Best of times in east Belfast
Due to the inclusive aspect of the competition, it was perhaps perfectly just that teams from either side of the border came away with glory at the second annual George Best Community Cup over the weekend.
Another successful event saw Ballywalter bag the under-13s crown at the Oval.
In an all-northern final the boys from the Co. Down seaside town saw off Armagh after a nervy penalty shoot-out.
Appropriately, after the young teens had taken their bow, the older lads of Dundalk and Mayo’s under-17 teams played out a scrappy southern showpiece, as Dundalk came up trumps with a 2-1 success.
With 64 matches played across east Belfast over the three-day competition and with 600 young people from throughout the island of Ireland participating, the tournament has gained great momentum and has established itself as one of the area’s biggest sporting events.
The competition, now in its second year, has attracted some of the biggest names from the Irish League and League of Ireland coupled with regional, county teams throughout Ireland and this year produced some fantastic matches, fabulous goals and more importantly, formed the basis of lasting friendships, cross community and beyond.
David McConnell, chairman of the George Best Community Cup committee, was delighted by another successful weekend, as much by the cross-community aspect as the sporting achievements.
“We are immensely proud of this year’s competition,” he said.
“A huge effort has gone into building on and developing last year’s event. We believe we have done that and look forward to improving even further next year.
“You cannot underestimate the amount of work that goes into organising an event of this scale, but when you see the thrill when
the young people are participating and the positive atmosphere it generates within the volunteering team and the wider community, you know the hard work has been worth it.
“I’d like to pay a huge tribute to Glentoran FC who allowed us to play the respective finals at the Oval.
“It allowed us to add some prestige to the event, which I think it deserved.
“We look forward to working with Glentoran FC again in the future.”
Louise Little, event manager of the George Best Community Cup added: “The George Best Community Cup is first and foremost about using the much loved sport of football as the platform to allow young people from all backgrounds to come together to enhance learning, respect and understanding.
“This will always be a theme that run through the George Best Community Cup, I can’t think of a better way to bring young people together than through sporting competition.
“We hope that the name of our competition can be associated with community building efforts.”
The competition got under way on Friday morning, with eight locations within east Belfast hosting under-13 and under-17 matches.
The legendary name behind the competition is, of course, synonymous with east Belfast and George Best has left a lasting legacy in building bridges through football.
As well as that though, off the pitch, the work of the George Best Community Cup committee has seen the area being given a more positive image as a new mural depicting Best replaced that of a paramilitary symbol in the Inverary Estate in Sydenham in the run up to this year’s competition.
George’s sister Barbara McNarry was there to hand out the prizes at the Oval on Sunday, wrapping up a superb weekend of sporting success.
“We hope now that we can become even bigger next year,” added David McConnell.