On the hilly outskirts of Galway City, The Drom will play host to one of Ireland’s top youth tournaments as teams across the country and globe compete in the Galway Cup from the 9th to the 12th of August.
With the Kennedy Cup and Gaynor Cup playing host to the schoolboy and schoolgirl teams and the Hibernia Trophy and Milk Cup playing host to elite academy and international sides, the Galway Cup is fusion of the two with local league sides this year playing against the likes of Leeds United, Glenavon, and the Colorado Rapids. There are also League of Ireland academies involved with Finn Harps and Longford Town joined by a first ever appearance from Galway United.
Extratime.ie have been reporting and interviewing at the competition for the past four years, hiding away in the Bird’s Nest atop the bright blue clubhouse that Salthill Devon calls its home, and for the two latter years, I have been one of the reporters.
With a warm reception from all at Salthill Devon, a nervous first year in 2015 didn’t see too much content produced as I guess I was in awe of not only the international sides, featuring Leeds United, Ipswich Town, the Colorado Rapids and Kyoto from Japan, but also the Irish sides featuring a vast array of experienced managers and coaches whose knowledge I did not tap into until a year later.
However, the relaxed nature of the Galway Cup allows for an easy-going atmosphere so after a few days posturing about, I managed to interview Jason Blunt of Leeds United before following up with a bizarre opportunity to interview Tim Hinchey III, the President of the Colorado Rapids and now CEO of USA Swimming.
Returning in 2016, I was determined to put together the perspectives from those involved in youth football in Ireland as key decisions were being made on an u15 League of Ireland and a dramatic switch to summer football for the schoolboy/girl leagues. Whilst getting to know the fantastic referees at the accommodation as well as even more great people behind the scenes at Salthill Devon, it would turn into a fun but insightful tournament for myself.
Pat McNally of the KDUL, Stuart Hayden of the NDSL, and John McAteer of the Sligo/Leitrim League had great thoughts and ideas for the future and the sides featured would also be prominent this year at the Kennedy Cup, with all three finishing in the top eight as Sligo/Leitrim reached the final against the DDSL.
Paul Osam, Marty McCann and Stephen Rice added a perspective from international sides as they shared the ideas behind the FAI Future Developers and Club NI as well as thoughts on the changes in Irish youth football and how the benefits would be seen as the players they coached made the step-up into national leagues.
A chance spotting of Ollie Horgan amongst the assembled crowd of scouts, assessors and parents lead to one of my favourite interviews as the Finn Harps boss gave his account on the future of both youths in Ireland and at Finn Harps. This high point was nearly matched by the low point of thirteen year-olds asking what team I played for and whether I would be playing them in the next round. A beard has since been grown and though it has been poorly attempted, it at least makes me look fifteen.
The talking would be interrupted by the cheering of top quality goals, easily seen on the four pitches from the clubhouse, or by the low gasps of the crowd when a mistake lead to the ball ending up in the back of the net. The professional approach of organisers as well as the likes of Avenir Sports helped create a competitive atmosphere on the field but also a relaxed one off of it.
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make the tournament this year but I have no doubt that the quality and nature of the Galway Cup will persist and it will be enjoyable on many fronts.