Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy was in town today - Trim town to be precise - to officially launch the FAI's Festival of Football at the Knightsbrook Hotel. The Festival will take place in Meath in from Sunday 21st July to 27th July.
The Festival will also include a variety of events including coaching courses with FAI officials and coaches going around to various clubs. Normally during the course of the week grants are also given out to help clubs to help them with their development. This year there will be a women's football convention and a supporters' awards night as wll as many other events.
The Festival moves from county to county each year and this time the Royal County was chosen.
At the end of the week the FAI's Annual General Meeting will take place and at that it is expected a new board will be announced.
All 38 clubs in Meath will receive visits from FAI management, former internationals and coaching staff during the week long festivities.
Clubs will also benefit from financial aid and coaching assistance as Meath becomes the newest host of the Festival of Football which was launched in 2007.
This year’s Festival is supported by Meath County Council and the Meath Local Sports Partnership. Ireland managers McCarthy and Colin Bell, manager of the national ladies team, also spoke to media and the football family at the launch.
McCarthy said: “This is my second reign as Ireland boss and my first time to be involved with the Festival of Football. I am very much looking forward to returning to Meath at the end of July and promoting our sport in the county.”
Bell told the launch: “Football is growing across Ireland and the Festival of Football is a huge part of that growth. I have enjoyed being part of the Festival since I started work with the FAI and I know I will enjoy this year’s event in Meath.”
Former Ireland Under 21 international Barry Ferguson has worked as Regional Football Development Officer in Meath since 2015, a position jointly funded by Meath County Council and the FAI.
“The support I receive from the 38 clubs spread across the county of Meath has been phenomenal,” said Ferguson.
“I know how much hard work they put in to grow the game and how excited they are to host the Festival of Football and the AGM in Meath in July. It promises to be a very special week for football in the area.”
A number well known figures from local soccer circles attended the launch of the Festival of Football (from left) Mick Ennis, Declan Jordan, Mick McCarthy, James Bird, Gerry Gorman, David Brady.
At the official launch there were also a number of well-known figures from the community as well as politicians and personalites from the local and national soccer circles attended. Some of those who were in the Knightsbrook included Noel Fitzroy, vice-president of the FAI, Tom Kelly, cathaoirleach of Meath Co Council, Jackie Magurie, CEO of Meath Co Council, Mary Murphy of the Local Sports Partnership, North East Football League supremo Gerry Gorman as well as Colin Bell.
Cllr Tom Kelly said that he was delighted the Festival was taking place in Meath and he paid tribute to the FAI "and all those who were involved in the planning of the Festival."
He wasn't sure if he would have an official role in July he said. "I may not be chairman there's the little matter of an election in the meantime," he said to a good-humoured response from the audience.
The FAI's Development Officer for Meath Barry Ferguson spoke of the massive improvement in soccer, in terms of numbers and facilities, that has taken place in the Royal County since the Mid-Meath League was formed in 1980.
He pointed out that 300 people from the Meath area had attended coaching courses last year.
In a short speech he gave McCarthy said he was well are of local man Darragh Leninhan who turns out for Blackburn Rovers and he said he was in his thoughts although he was not included in the squad for upcoming games. Last summer Lenihan became the first Meathman to be capped at senior level by the Republic of Ireland.
In a photo shoot at Trim Castle before the launch McCarthy said he was greatly impressed by Trim town and particularly the Norman fortress that has become a major tourist attraction.
NOTES RE 2019 FESTIVAL OF FOOTBALL VISIT TO MEATH
- This is the first time Meath has hosted the FAI AGM and Festival of Football
- 38 Club visits planned by former Republic of Ireland senior men’s and women players
- International team managers Mick McCarthy and Colin Bell will also visit clubs
- All clubs visited will receive financial aid and club assistance as Meath hosts the 2019 AGM
- FAI Festival of Football Fun Days will take place at four clubs across the county during the week
- Sports Direct FAI Summer Soccer Schools will take place in four clubs during the Festival of Football
- Mick McCarthy and Colin Bell will be Guests of Honour at the FAI Delegates Dinner
- National Football Awards will be presented at the Delegates Dinner in the Knightsbrook Hotel
- Over 250 delegates from every League and Divisional Association will attend the AGM
- The FAI Festival of Football was launched in 2007
- The FAI Festival of Football has visited Kerry, Mayo, Monaghan, Wexford, Clare, Donegal, Wicklow, Westmeath, Sligo/Leitrim, Tipperary, Kilkenny and Cork
- The Mid-Meath League was founded in 1980
- The League became the Meath and District League in 1984
- The North East Football League, incorporating the Meath and District League, was formed in 2014
- The Meath Schoolboys League was founded in 1985
- The North East Counties League, incorporating the Meath Schoolboys League was formed in 1991
- There are currently 38 football clubs in Meath with some teams playing in Dublin leagues
- Meath County Council have joint-funded a Development Officer for the county with the FAI since 2008
- Barry Ferguson, a former Ireland under 21 international and Bettystown resident, has been the Development Officer for Meath since 2015
- Dunboyne native Darragh Lenihan became the first Meath player to be capped by the Irish senior men’s team when he made his debut against the USA in 2018
- Bohermeen native and Dundalk star Gary Rogers is on course to break the record for the most League of Ireland appearances by a goalkeeper