Another great show of unity through soccer

by Gazette Reporter
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In perfect conditions for soccer, and with the sunshine and lots of spectators coming out to enjoy both the football and family entertainment on offer, the 2014 SARI Soccerfest proved once again to be a huge success.

Europe’s largest intercultural seven-a-side tournament in the Phoenix Park was held over two days, with 64 teams making up the participants in the three competitions – 40 men’s teams, eight women’s teams, eight Under–15 teams and eight Under-13 teams from across Ireland gathering for the 18th iteration of the competition which promotes cultural integration and social development.

Teams representing Ireland’s immigrant, multi-faith and Traveller communities and eight teams from direct provision centres battled for the SARI Soccerfest title, and SARI director and former Ireland manager Brian Kerr said: “This is the 18th year of Soccerfest – one of the most important events in the SARI calendar and this year we have more competitors than ever.

“SARI’s greatest strength and experience is in organising and delivering inter-cultural sports events that allow people to learn about their similarities rather than call out the differences and playing sport is one of the best ways to break down boundaries and promote inclusion.”

The competition itself saw a fine two days of sport, and in the main event, Dun Laoghaire Guards beat Republic of Gingerbread 3-2 on penalties following extra time to claim the SARI Soccerfest Cup after the game finished 0-0. Fionn Brooks of Republic of Gingerbread was named player of the tournament.

SARI Soccerfest Women’s Cup winners were Shelbourne FC, who overcame their close rivals St Patrick’s Athletic with a brace from Emma Boyle in between goals from Erica Cahill and Eve Farrelly, who finished the tournament as top scorer, to win 4-0 in the women’s tournament.

Pavee Point retained the Under-13 Cup on Saturday thanks to two fine strikes from Martin Collins to get the better of Sworda Celtic in a highly entertaining final in front of a big crowd, and in the inaugural Under-15 tournament it was South Dublin’s Granada FC who kept their nerve in their penalty shoot out 3-2 win over Lifford FC of Ennis, Co Clare. Granada’s Liam Ryan scored the all important penalty after their keeper Steve Bilevich saved Lifford’s second penalty.

The weekend also saw a star-studded celebrity match that pitted the SARI All-Stars against cast and crew members of Love/Hate.

The Love/Hate team included stars such as Aidan Gillen (John Boy), Peter Coonan (Fran), Laurence Kinlan (Elmo), Barry Keoghan (Wayne), Johnny Ward, James Flynn and Ian Lloyd Anderson with writer Stuart Carolan managing from the side lines, while the SARI All Stars was made up of sports personalities such as Ireland Under-21 manager Noel King, Irish women’s rugby internationals Marie Louise Reilly and Jenny Murphy. Also taking part were former League of Ireland players Stuart Byrne and Ian Cawley alongside members of the media such as RTE presenters Aidan Power, John Kenny and James O’Toole, and Eoin McDevitt from the Second Captains managing.

It proved the firepower of former Dublin GAA player Jason Sherlock to break the deadlock, his second half strike sealing a 2-1 win over Love Hate All Stars after Coonan gave Love/Hate the lead with an excellent strike midway through the first half.

As well as the soccer, there was a wide variety of entertainment with face painting, clowns, juggling and drumming workshops, as well as the Soccerfest Skills Challenge highlighting the Millennium Development Goals.

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