Hibernia’s talent showcase

by Karl Graham
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ST JOSEPH’S BOYS are hoping to finally land the Hibernia Umbro Trophy this year when it takes place at their Pearse Park ground in Sallynoggin from August 19 to 21.
This year is the 11th instalment of the annual tournament which has been won in the past by the likes of Celtic, Liverpool and Villarreal.
There will be no continental teams to test the local lads this year but Sunderland, Ipswich Town, and Wolverhampton Wanderers will all be on hand to provide top class opposition.
Club secretary Niall O’Driscoll spoke to GazetteSport about how proud St Joseph’s are of the tournament they have built. “This would be the biggest elite tournament for its age group in Ireland by a mile.
“It is the first time that all these kids play international football and it’s used by the FAI and the Irish Football Association for this purpose. Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick, Jonjo Shelvey; a lot of these kids started their international careers in the Hibernia Trophy,” O’Driscoll continued.
The tournament costs around €30,000 to host and is funded mainly by sponsorship and admission fees. They were helped out by Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council this year to the tune of €5,000.
Attendances are usually high with the club expecting as many as 5,000 people to attend each day over the weekend.
St Joseph’s will be joined by the FAI Development squad as the only two Irish teams to play in the tournament and O’Driscoll believes that their participation in the tournament is of great experience to them.
“It’s their first introduction to the standard at that level. Even the international teams don’t get an opportunity like this to play eight or nine top quality matches,” said O’Driscoll.
Last year’s tournament was a dramatic one with Celtic coming out on top after a penalty shootout victory over Sunderland.
The FAI Development Squad has won the tournament five times and came very close to landing their sixth title last year. They started that campaign with a 2-0 win over Wolves before defeating the hosts 3-1.
A 2-1 loss to Sunderland left them level on point, goals scored, and goals conceded with their Teeside rivals but missed out on the final due to the Black Cats’ holding a better head-to-head record.
They did however finish the tournament on a high with a 3-2 win over the Northern Ireland Development Squad in the third-place playoff.
Joey’s have never won the tournament but with last season’s treble winning Under-14 side representing the club, this could be the year that they finally get their names on the trophy.

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