Derry native Marty Walker.
Derry native Marty Walker will bring his Inter Connecticut team thousands of miles to play in this year's Foyle Cup, admitting that it is a no-brainer to participate.
Marty is bringing under-15 and under-16 teams to what is the 30th iteration of the Foyle Cup, which runs from 18th-23rd July throughout Derry and the Northwest. It’s not his first time attending the competition though, having previously brought teams under a different guise.
Marty explained: “We used to be called Everton America - we had an affiliation with Everton in the Premier League. I've been involved with the club since 2015 and we've always brought teams over for the Foyle Cup.
"We rebranded as Inter Connecticut in 2019 and then COVID hit in 2020 so this is the first opportunity to get back and we’ve seized it.”
Registering for the Foyle Cup was a “no-brainer” according to Marty, who bought the club with colleague Leon Othen in 2019.
Marty added: “It's a brilliant event. There's an element of jealously when it comes to the Foyle Cup because I never actually got the opportunity to play in it, so the opportunity to coach at it and to bring teams is almost making up for my lack of playing in it.
"Whenever I came into the club as a director, I was overseeing the high school division.
"The under-15s through to under-19s were doing some trips but it wasn’t always tournament-based. So as a trial I thought ‘why not the Foyle Cup?’ and then it stuck. The first trip was really good, the players and parents loved it, so it’s grown from there.
Inter Connecticut will participate in this year's Foyle Cup.
"We were then able to send two teams in 2019 and we’ve two teams coming again this year. We expect to have three or four teams going next year, including girls’ teams.”
Football often has to compete with more traditional sports in the United States such as American Football, Basketball and Baseball, however Marty has noticed a definite improvement in the standard of play in recent years as he looks to close the gap on teams this side of the Atlantic.
He said: “They’re buzzing to get over but also a little bit nervous because the players here are very good athletes but they're all usually multi-sport players, whereas at home in Ireland it’s football or nothing for the most part. We tend to have a decent showing and we never get embarrassed, and we’ve gotten a couple of wins in the past.
“The standard has gotten better over the years since I’ve been here. The players understand the game a lot more and they don't just depend on their athleticism, which got us by in the past.
“While our teams tend to be quite fit, I think the boys back home just understand the game better so that's the big lesson for our players.
"They always come back from the Foyle Cup more mature, both in person and as footballers, because they’re seeing a different style of play; it’s a bit more aggressive and cohesive, especially at that age group.
Inter's U15 and U16 teams will arrive in Derry next week.
"But I'm looking forward to seeing how much the gap has shrunk since 2019 because the level of the game has really taken off over here and the standard is increasing year by year.”
Marty originally hails from the Bogside and although he now lives over 3000 miles away, Derry remains close to his heart.
He said: “I've got a four-year-old and a three-year-old and they were at a summer camp here with their Derry City kits on! It's always hard to leave Derry because it's such a good place. You leave so many people behind so seeing family and friends again and getting to spend some time with them is always massively important.
"I’ll also get to show the Americans and their families from our club the culture of Derry and show them around the Northwest. It’s always good to use the Foyle Cup as a catalyst to get home and see everybody.”
Foyle Cup Secretary Philip Devlin commented: “Having teams travel from as far as the United States to participate in the Foyle Cup is testament to the growth and status of this fine tournament. Marty is doing a terrific job over there and we look forward to welcoming him and Inter Connecticut to the Northwest this summer.”
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