The FAI’s ‘Festival of Football’ has seen the delegation headed by CEO John Delaney and ambassador Ray Houghton whisk their way through the county.
The plan to devise a week-long celebration was concocted by Delaney to enable the association to be more in touch with its clubs and members. Events continue until Saturday’s AGM in Letterkenny.
“We had a brilliant day, despite the weather,” said Frank Sweeney, Donegal Town AFC official. “John Delaney and Ray Houghton were brilliant and spoke to everybody and spent the best part of their time with us signing autographs and mixing with the crowd.
“We all enjoyed the visit and it was a proud day for the club to have John Delaney officially open our new pitch and he presented us with a special pennant to mark the occasion to hang in the club house. The Town Mayor Tom Conaghan and Seamus Fullerton who laid the new pitch for us was our special guest.
“We had over a 100 children at the special coaching session we had and they all received a new soccer kit of jersey, socks and togs all free of charge. It was a wonderful gesture by the FAI and overall it was a brilliant occasion enjoyed by everybody that attended.”
Meanwhile, over the road at Eany Celtic, those involved with the club were equally satisfied when their new 100-seater stand was officially opened.
“John Delaney officially opened our stand and Fr John McLoone blessed the stand, while Ray Houghton was very good with the children,” said club secretary John Gallagher. “We had all the underage teams in for a coaching session and Ray took part in the session and gave the children and the coaches a number of tips. Everybody really enjoyed the day. John Delaney and Ray Houghton were brilliant. They gave us a cheque for €1,000 euro, 50 footballs, a set of goal posts, and 25 complimentary tickets to an international game of our choice.
“It capped a great week for the clubs. We had our annual sea food night on Saturday night in the Community Centre. It is our big annual fundraiser and it was once again a great success.”
Meanwhile, at Emerald Park in Killybegs, the local St Catherine’s team and Dunkineely Celtic came together to host an underage blitz.
“It was a great day for ourselves and Dunkineely Celtic,” said St Catherine’s official Declan Sherlock. “It was a joint effort between the both clubs and we staged the day at Emerald Park. John Delaney and Ray Houghton stood out in the rain and signed autographs and in fact we had to drag them in off the pitch.
“We had over 100 boys and girls from both clubs and they took part in a special coaching session and Ray Houghton took a great interest in this. Local councillors John Boyle and Brendan Byrne, Town Mayoress Mairead Gallagher and our parish priest Fr Colm Gallagher, were our special guests.
“John Delaney presented us with €1000, 40 footballs and 25 complimentary tickets for the international game with Germany. It was a very good day and everybody both children and adults were very impressed with John Delaney and Ray Houghton.”
The entourage’s feet have hardly touched the ground since activities got underway on Sunday in Inishowen. There was an official opening of Glencrow Park at Moville Celtic, a family funday at Greencastle United, underage presentation awards at Glengad United, sports days at Carndonagh United, the opening of Quigley’s Point Swifts’ new clubhouse and the opening of the Inishowen Football League’s grounds at Maginn Park in Buncrana.
Monday concluded the Inishowen leg of the tour before moving towards Sheephaven Bay. There was the formal switching on of the fllodlights as the FAI met with the families of the late PJ McLaughlin and Eamonn McDaid at Illies Celtic, Buncrana Hearts hosed a launch of ‘Football for All’ club programme, while Aileach FC had their official opening of their clubhouse and indoor astroturf hall.
Tuesday evening saw the officials move towards Swilly Rovers, where the 50th anniversary of their FAI Junior Cup win was celebrated, Milford United saw their stand officially opened before Fanad United launched the Mulroy Academy Summer School.
Come Tuesday, Lagan Harps had a soccer sisters programme, Eany Celtic opened a stand, while Killybegs’ Emerald Park played host to a blitz for the children from St Catherine’s and Dunkineely. Donegal Twon then had their pitch at the Hospital Field officially opened and Drumkeen United, Convoy Arsenal and Raphoe Town joined forced for a family fun day and social night.
Wednesday began at Leckview Park, the home of Letterkenny Rovers, where an intercultural match preceded celebration of the club’s 50th anniversary. Glenea United then opened a new stad, while Keadue Rovers turned the sod on their new training facilities. Last evening, Arranmore United were opening and dedicating their stand to Anthon Gallagher. The night rolled in at Gweedore.
Today, at Gweedore Celtic’s An Screaban there is a coaching and training session for underage players at 10.20am, official re-opening of Dunlewey Celtic’s pitch at 11.30am, as well as sports day and annual awards presentation. Illistin FC, at 12.55pm, will host underage blitzes, as will Bonagee United at 3pm, combined with their medal presentations.
Carry Rovers celebrate their 35th anniversary at 4.20pm before a Civic Reception at County House in Lifford. The launch of the Donegal League’s 40th Anniversary and Launch of Commemorative Book takes place at Diamond Park at 7.30pm. There is a FAI family fun day today in the Bernard McGlinchey Peace Park in Letterkenny from 2pm-5pm.
Friday sees the delegation at Finn Harps at 11.20am for a mixture of activities, including goalkeepering academy, schools’ programme, Special Olympics and the viewing for the proposed new development. Giovanni Trapattoni will be in Jackson’s Hotel on Friday at 2pm to name his squad for the upcoming friendly against Serbia and the main job of the week, the AGM, takes place at noon in the Mount Errigal on Saturday.s