The Foyle Cup is set to have a real Old Firm flavour in the summer, with Rangers joining Glasgow rivals Celtic in the tournament.
The Ibrox club have contacted tournament organisers to declare their interest in sending a team to contest at least one age group and with Celtic being regular visitors to the north west over the last few years there is every chance that they could go head-to-head in Northern Ireland for the first time.
Foyle Cup chairman Michael Hutton was pleasantly surprised to receive a call from Rangers Academy Operations Manager Craig Mulholland and now he is preparing to welcome the Light Blues from July 22-27.
“Rangers have been in touch about bringing a team to this year’s event,” said Hutton.
“They are interested in competing at under-15 level.
“I know that Rangers may not be competing in the Scottish Premier League at the moment, but they remain one of the biggest clubs in Britain and I know their Northern Ireland fans will be delighted to see the team compete for honours in this year’s event.
“We are delighted that they have chosen to showcase their youth talent in the Foyle Cup tournament,” he added.
This year’s Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup is expected to be the biggest yet, to coincide with Londonderry’s status as the UK City of Culture for 2013 and the addition of Rangers to the list of participating clubs will also be a big boost.
There were 132 teams in the 2011 Foyle Cup, that number increasing to 164 last year, with ages ranging from under-10 to under-17, as well as an under-19 tournament and a ladies competition.
Celtic have been among a large number of Scottish clubs who have sent teams across the Irish Sea for the Foyle Cup. Aberdeen, Hearts, Hibernian, Motherwell, Kilmarnock and St Johnstone have all participated and the addition of Rangers will obviously see that link grow.
A number of Irish League academies and clubs from around Northern Ireland will also return to the competition, but many will come from further afield.
“When one thinks about the effect the recession is having on spending power not just throughout Ireland and the UK but globally, it is remarkable to note that each year our entries increase,” said Hutton.
“ The interest in our event and our city comes from all over the world.
“At the moment it would appear we will have at least four teams travelling from as far away as Canada and America to compete and possibly four teams from South Africa.
“Each year the event generates in excess of 10,000 bed-nights and an ever increasing amount of spending in the local economy, at a time of the year when visitor numbers had previously been quite low,” added the Foyle Cup chairman.