The prestigious underage soccer competition, theUmbro Galway Cup, kicked off yesterday in Drom Soccer Park.
Now in its sixth year, the four-day competition this year boasts 51 teams from six countries involved in six different competitions and involving 1,000 young up-and-coming players.
The six competitions in the Umbro Galway Cup are: U-17 boys and girls; U-15 elite boys; U-15 boys; U-13 elite boys, and U-13 boys.
Considerable interest is focused on the u-15 elite competition which has attracted teams from Norway, England, Sweden, Scotland, and Wales competing in two groups against the FAI Emerging Talent side.
2007 champions Ipswich Town have been drawn in the same group as the Irish team, in addition to Stabaek from Norway and Bangor City, while group B includes defending Champions Leicester City, Cherry Orchard, Aberdeen, and IF Brommapojkarna.
Cherry Orchard, which boasts seven Irish internationals, enter the competition having won the SFAI Cup in each of the last three seasons, and having won the DDSL premier division in three of the last four years. But they will face a stiff challenge from Leicester who last year became the first team to successfully defend their Elite trophy, beating Fulham by a single goal in the final, and conceding only two goals in five games. The dark horses in this group are the newcomers from Sweden, IF Brommapojkarna Boys, who have already won the Riga Cup in Latvia as well as claiming the Swedish Futsal Championship.
Two teams from both group A and group B qualify for the semi-finals in the Elite competitions to be held tomorrow (Friday ) at 2.40pm and 3.50pm.
The u-17 boys enters its final few rounds of league games on Friday with considerable local interest. Host club Salthill Devon take on Kilkenny District League at 9.30am, and Mervue United play Bangor City from Wales at the same time. In the evening, Barna United will trade places with the Seagulls and play their final group game against Kilkenny at 6.10pm.
The u-17 girls will be in full swing tomorrow and many have tipped the 5pm clash of Salthill Devon and Cork City Schoolgirls as the one to watch. Last year the Cork Schoolgirls suffered heartbreak by losing 3-2 to Northern Ireland in the final, while the host club failed to successfully defend their 2008 title, losing to Cork in the group by a 1-0 scoreline.
Finals day is Saturday with 12 matches to be decided as well as a number of playoffs. The u-13 boys’ final is scheduled for 10.40am, while the u-13 elite boys’ final will follow at 11.50am. The u-17 boys’ final is at 1pm, while the u-15 elite boys’ decider is scheduled for 2.40pm. The u-17 girls’ final is at 3.50pm and the u-15 boys at 5pm.