Several top Scottish football clubs last week sent their youth teams across the Irish Sea to compete in the 2017 Foyle Cup, with some achieving more success than others.
The annual tournament, which celebrated its 25th year of offering high-quality youth football, took place in the Derry/Londonderry, Strabane and Causeway Coast & Glens Council areas of Northern Ireland from July 17 to July 22.
These Scottish clubs are extremely fond of the tournament, and more importantly, the tournament is utterly grateful for their continued participation, significantly across various age groups panning from under 9 to under 19, with a Ladies category also in full swing for several years now.
Representing Scottish football this year was none other than the youth academy of Premiership champions Celtic, as well as Hearts, Partick Thistle and Hamilton Academical.
Celtic were unsurprisingly the main attraction as they took the under 14 crown in an entertaining affair with hosts Derry City, while Hamilton took 9th place out of 56 teams at under 11 level after impressing in their group.
Partick finished a respectable 13th at under 13 level, while Hearts were made to settle for 15th place at a highly competitive under 16 level.
These professional Scottish Premier League sides travelled in their numbers to not only represent their badge on the field, but also arrived for the highly anticipated parade that took place at the beginning of the tournament, where participants paraded around the picturesque host city of Derry/Londonderry, and met at the iconic Guildhall Square for a formal welcome from the competition organizers.
Memorable moments for such clubs throughout the years include a fantastic 2016 victory for Scottish giants Celtic in the under 14 competition, while similarly Partick Thistle stormed the under 19 level in 2014. Edinburgh outfit Hearts have also been hugely successful throughout the years at various age groups, and importantly the players and staff have thoroughly enjoyed their experiences in this unique competition.
The presence of these world famous clubs not only offers a glimpse of the future, but also provides local kids with an amazing opportunity to test their skills against some of the best players they may possibly ever compete against.
It demonstrates the success of this prestigious tournament when these globally renowned clubs send their development squads across the water, and significantly conveys that enjoyment and the positive experience of the occasion should be placed above all else, in a time where success and competition are often wrongly placed at the centre of youth football.
This specific tournament focuses on enjoyment and taking part in the spirit of the game, an appropriate starting point for many young athletes, and although there is the inevitable competitive aspect as the tournament moves towards the older participants, especially at under 19 level, there is the constant element of enjoyment and respect at the heart of the game.
Guest of Honour James McClean officially kicked off the tournament in the Waterfoot Hotel on June 12, and his presence cements the prestige and reputation the Foyle Cup holds in the city and beyond, with McClean himself having come through the ranks of host Derry City, spending many of his youth career participating in the tournament before going on to represent the Republic of Ireland national team.
Tournament graduates include countless stars to eventually travel across the water and play for some of England’s top teams, such as Robbie Keane, John O’Shea, Seamus Coleman, Shay Given and Shane Ferguson among several others.
The hugely popular Northern Irish football tournament began as an eight-team, one-day event in 1992, and has since grown into one of the largest youth tournaments of its kind, with a record 345 teams competing in this year’s event.