Northern Ireland

Foyle Cup at its 'most inclusive' with Oxford Bulls and Foyle Belles

The Oxford Bulls ahead of a Foyle Cup match
Image caption The Oxford Bulls are a football team made up of children with Down's syndrome

When the first ever Foyle Cup kicked off back in 1992, there were just eight all boy teams taking part.

But three decades on, Londonderry's premier youth football tournament now boasts its most diverse and inclusive line-up of aspiring young footballers.

More than 400 teams are vying for a first taste of football glory.

Among them is the Oxford Bulls, a local team for children with Down's syndrome.

Bulls' player Adam Morrison had the honour of leading the tournament's opening parade.

His dad, and coach, Kevin said competing on the field is a sign of how far the club - and the tournament - have progressed.

"Kids with Down's syndrome take that little bit longer to learn new skills," he said.

Image caption Adam Morrison from the Oxford Bulls proudly displays his side's pennant from a Foyle Cup match

"For the first six months of training, we were trying to teach them that the two teams attack in different directions.

"But once they got the hang of it, the transformation has been fantastic.

"They're scoring goals, putting in tackles and are aware of their positions, but the most important thing is they're enjoying themselves."

Kevin said he never thought he would see Adam play in the tournament, "never mind leading the parade with his team into Guildhall Square".

"As a parent, it's fantastic to see our children involved in a prestigious tournament like the Foyle Cup," he said.

"We hope to expand the disabled side of the competition even further next year.

"We have already made contact with smaller clubs around the country and hope to be looking at eight disabled teams competing at the next Foyle Cup."

Football belles

Women's football is enjoying a never before seen prominence.

Almost 30 million people watched the BBC's coverage of the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup on television and online.

At grass roots level, more girls are playing football than ever before.

Image caption One of the Foyle Belles teams in their distinctive pink kit

Foyle Belles are an all-girls club based in Derry.

Under-13 coach Bronagh Dunne said the club have been competing in the Foyle Cup for a number of years and players can see a clear pathway through to the club's senior side.

"There are a few girls who have been here since we were founded who are now senior players, including our captain," she said.

"Ladies football is being recognised more and more, so it is great to see so many young girls coming through knowing they will one day be in our ladies team."

Image copyright Keith Moore
Image caption Linfield Ladies won a clean sweep at three age groups

Northern Irish football giants Linfield have both boys and girls teams competing.

The latter have won every age range they entered, under 9, under 11 and under 13.

"The tournament does a great job of promoting ladies football," coach Molly Gilmore said.

"Playing against different sides than who we'd usually compete against is a massive bonus and great experience for our girls.

"I think through combining the likes of these events with the Women's World Cup will see a massive change over the next few months, with more girls taking up the sport," she said.

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