Organisers declare inclusive Foyle Cup a smash hit both on and off the pitch
O'Neills Foyle Cup finished on a high this weekend and has already been hailed by those behind putting the event together as the most successful yet.
As the largest youth soccer tournament on the island, a total of 424 teams took part in the 2019 competition, with a wider representation than ever before including more female participants in more age groups than previous years, as well as the inclusion of a sports with disability category.
Thousands of players came from across Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, the UK, Europe and the USA to compete against each other in over sixteen categories.
The tournament took place over six days all around the North West with matches played on pitches throughout Derry, Strabane, Donegal and Limavady.
Many of the teams and officials stayed in the area for the duration, giving a boost to the local economy with overnight stays and eating out.
As one of the most important events in the calendar for those involved in hospitality and tourism, O'Neills Foyle Cup regularly ensures high occupancy rates throughout the week of the competition and this year was no exception.
The event doesn't just give the boys and girls involved the chance to impress their families and friends with their footballing skills, it's also an opportunity for them to catch the eye of one of the many talent scouts attending the tournament and potentially securing a move to one of the major football clubs in the UK.
This year, representatives from the Premier League, Championship and Scotland amongst others, travelled to the area to see if they could spot the next rising star in action before they become a household name in the years to come.
Former England international and Aston Villa frontman Darius Vassell was one of the big names to make the trip to the North West, where he guided his talented young Wolverhampton Wanderers side all the way to this year's Under 14 final.
They fell at the final hurdle to Sheffield United in a penalty shootout but the experience could help to bring on their next academy talent to follow in the steps of Morgan Gibbs-White in Nuno Espirito Santo's first team squad.
O'Neills Foyle Cup chairman, Michael Hutton, paid tribute to all those behind the scenes who helped make this year's event better than ever.
"We have been going since 1992 and this has been our best year ever," said Hutton.
"The income generated from O'Neills Foyle Cup is in the region of £2 million, giving an enormous and vital cash injection into the economy of Derry and the wider region.
"Once again the feedback we have received from visiting clubs is a testament to the warm and friendly welcomes they have received everywhere they have gone, with a high standard of service and a high quality of accommodation and hospitality in general.
"The teams have reported back to me that the level of football, the standard of the pitches, the professionalism of all the volunteers involved in O'Neills Foyle Cup make this exactly the kind of competitive but friendly footballing tournament they want to bring their teams to and many have already expressed an interest in next year's event."
Kieran Kennedy, Managing Director of O'Neills Irish International Sports Company, acknowledged all the dedicated individuals and groups who worked so hard on delivering another successful event for the North West region.
He said: "O'Neills as a local company are proud to support this tournament which enjoys a huge global reach.
"Full credit to the organisers and volunteers as their dedication and hard work helps ensure the O'Neills Foyle Cup continues to grow year on year and we look forward to welcoming thousands of young footballers to the region again next year."
Oxford Utd 0 Donegal S'boys 2
Dundee Utd 0 Motherwell 2
Wolves 2-2 Sheffield United
[Sheff Utd win 4-2 on pens]
Partick Thistle 2 Maiden City 1