Belfast Telegraph

Football fever spreading in north west with O'Neills Foyle Cup up and running

Raring to go: Referees and supporters of the O’Neills Foyle Cup are looking forward to the action getting under way
Raring to go: Referees and supporters of the O’Neills Foyle Cup are looking forward to the action getting under way

By Robert Jones

The golfers and their entourages may have moved on from Portrush following The Open Championship, but another international sporting event is taking place in the north west as thousands of young footballers and their fans begin the O'Neills Foyle Cup with 1,550 matches scheduled over the coming week.

A record 424 teams are travelling from all over the world for the major tournament, sponsored by Irish sportswear giants O'Neills, which will be played in the Derry City and Strabane District and Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council areas from today until Saturday.

Tomorrow morning the historic Walled City will become a sea of colour as an estimated 6,000 participants parade from Ulster University's Magee campus to the city centre.

A Mayor's reception and dinner will also be held in the Guildhall later in the evening.

This year's tournament has its highest ever entry of professional clubs with Motherwell and Carlisle joining Sheffield United, Dundee, Hearts, Partick Thistle, Hibernian, Wolves - here for the first time - Altrincham, and Barnsley. The event also has entrants from nine USA and Canadian teams as well as clubs from France and Finland.

Major clubs will be present during the week to scout talent, hoping to find the next star player. Over the years, Robbie Keane, John O'Shea, Paddy McNair, Darron Gibson, Shay Given, Paddy McCourt, Daniel Lafferty, James McClean, Stephen Ireland, John O'Shea and Kevin Kilbane - to name but a few - have all been signed after competing in this event.

Michael Hutton, chairman of the O'Neills Foyle Cup, said: "The major clubs in Britain are booking scouts into hotels. Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs, Sunderland, Norwich City, Sheffield United, Blackburn Rovers, Celtic, Hearts, Rangers, and many others, will each have several scouts in the city, very much focusing on the talent available."

Aberdeen and Northern Ireland star Niall McGinn said: "So many of our current team have come through the O'Neills Foyle Cup. I know the immense importance placed on this event by professional clubs in England and Scotland, as each club ensures scouts are in attendance.

"This is a high-profile competition which is obvious from the clubs involved, and 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."

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