Ireland stars Houghton, Whelan and McGrath to star in game to benefit local football

The clocks might very well be going forward, but at Eamonn Deacy Park in the coming days, soccer fans will have cause to go back in time as Galway United’s home turf is set to host some of the biggest stars that have ever graced Irish soccer history. when a star-studded Republic of Ireland Masters squad will take on a select Galway Legends outfit on the afternoon of April 8 in an effort to raise funds for grassroots football across the county.

The ROI Masters project was set up in 2013 by Mark O’ Neill and Mick Byrne so that retired players between the ages of 35 and 60 have the opportunity to continue playing the game they love, as well as representing their country – already the not-for-profit body has raised almost €500,000 for various charities.

Speaking ahead of the big fixture, which is expected to draw a huge crowd of supporters Peter Carpenter, one of the event’s key organisers, filled Advertiser Sport in on all the details.

“The game kicks off at 2.30 pm on the Saturday in which Ronnie Whelan and [Ray] Houghton will be playing. Stephen Hunt is going playing in that as well,” he said.“Paul McGrath is due down to be on the side-lines but he obviously won’t be playing, mixed in with other League of Ireland players as well as the likes of Dominic Foley.

”Whelan, Houghton and McGrath were all key members of the celebrated UEFA Euro 1988 and Italia ‘90 squads that forever etched their names into the history books with wins over England as well as a memorable surge to the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

As for the Galway contingent, they will be made up of players who have been involved with junior football down through the years, but there will not be any former League of Ireland legends involved on that side.“It’s local junior players that are involved with the Galway FA for the last 20-something years, over 35s that have played with some of the 40 clubs in the Galway FA,” Peter Carpenter commented.

“It’s a selection from all these, of about 22 to 25 clubs. So, those guys that have played in Galway over the years are going to be playing against this Republic of Ireland Masters squad.”Organisers are hoping to collect funds to inject into the development of grassroots football. Nurturing the young talents of today is, after all, arguably the best way of producing the next batch of Irish legends so it’s a fitting setting.“All funds raised are going to underage football – both boys’ and girls’, in Galway,” Mr Carpenter continued.“Raising money can be difficult. That’s why the marquee players, the Whelans, the Houghtons, are taking part. It’s a great opportunity to help support the underage structure in Galway soccer. It’s ideal for everybody on the day.”

A Q&A, hosted by Hector O’ hEochagain with Whelan, Houghton, Andy Townsend and Tony Cascarino will take place in the Connacht Hotel the night before, from 7.30 pm on April 7. Tickets for this and for the game itself are €10.

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