10 May 2018; Republic of Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill pictured at the SPAR FAI Primary Schools 5s Programme Leinster Finals in the MDL Grounds, Navan, Co. Meath. The six finalists will progress to the SPAR FAI Primary School 5s Programme National Finals in Aviva Stadium on May 30th. For further information please see www.SPAR.ie or www.FAIschools.ie Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile *** NO REPRODUCTION FEE ***

Students from Gaelscoil Chluain Dolcáin and Scoil Assaim in Dublin displayed sublime skill, grit and determination in the SPAR FAI Primary School 5s Programme National Finals which took place in Aviva Stadium, Dublin on Wednesday 30th May.

St. Brigid’s NS and Scoil Assaim claimed national honours in their categories for medium and large schools respectively after a tough campaign which began in February with county qualifiers held nationwide.

Tomás Ó Muireagáin and James Byrne impressed the FAI coaching staff on finals day to claim the coveted Section B’s and Section C’s Player of the Tournament awards which were presented by SPAR ambassador, former Republic of Ireland International, Keith Andrews, much to the delight of the many travelling supporters.

A total of 192 children, representing 24 schools and 13 counties qualified for the finals and had the opportunity to take to the field in Aviva Stadium, the home of Irish Football.

4th, 5th and 6th class primary school students from Donegal, Monaghan, Sligo, Mayo, Roscommon, Galway, Dublin, Offaly, Clare, Tipperary, Carlow, Wexford and Cork all walked through the tunnel, in the footsteps of their heroes, to a carnival atmosphere at the National Finals, cheered and supported by thousands of friends and family who made the trip.

A record 31, 728 participants from 1,528 schools started out in blitzes held nationwide building on the success of last year and continuing the incredible grassroots growth of the SPAR supported programme. Participation in the Programme has increased by 63% since 2015 making it the largest programme of its kind in Ireland.

Particularly pleasing for SPAR and the FAI has been the rise in the number of girls playing, 12,832 this year, a 38% increase in playing numbers in the past two years alone.

Colin Donnelly, SPAR Sales Director, said, “This has been our 4th year involved in the SPAR FAI Primary School 5s Programme and we’re delighted to see the programme has gone from strength to strength and cumulated in a fantastic festival of football in the Aviva Stadium. SPAR are very proud supporters and this is evident by the number of SPAR local retailers who have attended and supported schools at all stages of the programme from county blitzes all the way to the National Finals. Encouraging an active and healthy lifestyle is very important to SPAR and having over 30,000 children enjoying the fitness and social benefits of exercise is very satisfying for us. Finally, huge congratulations to all the schools who competed in the National Finals and thank you to all the family, friends and supporters for making the day so special.”

Seán Carr, FAI Schools Chairman stated, “The competition has gone from strength to strength in recent years thanks to the assistance of our sponsors, SPAR. There were an additional 3,000 participants involved this season, taking our total to nearly 32,000 boys and girls. The nationwide spread of schools who are choosing to take part, and the increase in female participation, which now stands at over 40% is particularly pleasing. The finals day is a memory that these players will cherish forever.”