Football Association of Ireland CEO John Delaney said he “can’t speak highly enough about the people of Donegal” as the association continue to embark on a tour of the county as part of their ‘Festival of football.’
The festivities have been running all week at various locations around the county and tomorrow, Friday, Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni will be at Jackson’s Hotel in Ballybofey to name his squad for next month’s international friendly against Serbia in Belgrade. Then, on Saturday, the FAI’s AGM will take place in the Mount Errigal Hotel in Letterkenny.
“It’s been amazing,” Delaney said of his time so far in Donegal yesterday at Leckview Park, the home of Letterkenny Rovers. “The weather might’ve been a bit mixed but the welcome has been very warm. Everywhere from where started in Inishowen through to Swilly Rovers, Milford United and Fanad United and then down to Killybegs before coming here to Letterkenny today.
“St Catherine’s in Killybegs were formed in 1896 and Seamus Coleman played with them. They’ve a great tradition and we got a great reception there. It was the same in Donegal Town and three clubs amalgamated then for a get-together, Raphoe Town, Convoy Arsenal and Drumkeen United. They put on a wonderful barbecue there as well. There must’ve been 15 or 16 teams of youngsters there waiting for us.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the people here. I knew it would be good in Donegal but I didn’t think it would be as good. Everywhere has been great. I’ve been struck with how good the facilities are - the dressing rooms, the pitches and the clubhouses.
“We’re looking forward to the rest of the week. I had a idea six or seven years ago to bring the AGM to the people. In the past the FAI AGM would be in Dublin on a Saturday and there might be some discussion over a rule change or something like that.
“Now, it’s over a week. We started off in Kerry; it’s been to Mayo, Monaghan, Wexford, Clare and now Donegal. It’s fabulous. The next four are already booked as - it’s Wicklow, Westmeath, Sligo and Tipperary. The counties are bidding for them now and they want to host them.
“I’ve said many times before, if you build a house first the chimney will take care of itself. It’s all about grassroots football. If someone says it’s work to be here this week, I can say it’s not. It’s hugely enjoyable going to meet so many clubs, their volunteers who are the grassroots guys. They’re running football in this county day in and day out. It’s easy for us to come here, say thank you, and when we leave we know football is in safe hands.”
The FAI have made equipment and funds worth up to €100,000 available to clubs in Donegal to mark the county’s hosting of the AGM. In all, there are 32 club visits this week.
“It’s been fantastic,” said former Ireland international Ray Houghton, who is on the trail as an FAI ambassador. “We started in Buncrana, which is a town when my late father James was from. I was brought up in Glasgow and was actually only in Donegal for a first time in August 1989. My dad died that December so his last memories would’ve been Donegal, which is nice.
“I’ve been here since Saturday and I played a round of golf at North West Golf Club. It’s always a joy to come to Donegal. There’s great facilities at the football clubs here and that will encourage the kids to get out and get active, which is the bottom line really.”