A group of under-15 girls from Raphoe Town FC will travel to Austria this week to participate in the Girls’ Football Festival in Vienna.
The squad of eleven players will be accompanied by their coaches Sinead Kelly and Ronan O’Flanagan for the event that runs from Friday, June 24th to Sunday, June 26th.
Raphoe Town FC is the only team from the Republic of Ireland taking part in the girl’s football festival. The other seven European countries that will be represented are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Croatia, Greece, Northern Ireland and Austria.
Speaking at a pre-trip meeting in Raphoe on Monday evening, where he presented the travelling party with specially commissioned tracksuits, Myles Sweeney, Coordinator with Donegal Sports Partnership, explained that his organisation was asked by the FAI to be part of this Erasmus + Sports Project.
“This opportunity came about through a previous IFI-funded project called Soccer for Peace which the FAI was part of along with the IFA in Northern Ireland. Des Tomlinson, the National Intercultural Officer with the FAI, invited me to a number of EU partner meetings to discuss a draft sport for a development application to the EU Erasmus+ fund around a sport for development programme with a number of partners from the western Balkans, Greece and Austria. Given our previous experience in delivering cross-border sports projects in the North West, we were probably a good fit for this project,” he said.
“Sport Together under the leadership of VIDC (Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation) was approved for funding for three years and through working with other partners mainly in the Western Balkan countries to develop the project around interculturalism, diversity, gender and developing training and education to support our sports leaders and volunteers,” Mr. Sweeney added.
“Donegal Sports Partnership has been working closely with Raphoe FC on previous projects so it was felt that they were well-positioned as a cross-community area to be the Irish representative on this part of the project,” he commented.
“This is a huge opportunity for the girls to travel to Austria and mix with girls from various cultural backgrounds to be part of this value-based sports event as part of Sport Together. They’re going to explore cultures, have a fun time in Vienna and play a bit of football as well. The main objectives of the trip are for the girls to build new friendships, perhaps get a better understanding of cultural differences, and also to have some fun and enjoy the Girls’ Football Festival and the busy schedule ahead of them,” he added.
Addressing the players after one of their final training sessions before their journey from Raphoe that begins on Thursday night, Mr Sweeney said: “The one thing we want to make sure you all make every effort to enjoy the weekend ahead. It’s going to be a great experience to get to travel to another country and to meet other players from other countries, get a chance to mix, explore other cultures, find out what they’re about, and learn new things.”
Hugh Carlin, Diversity and Special Projects Officer with Donegal Sports Partnership, extended his thanks to the Raphoe Town FC underage coaches, Sinead Kelly and Ronan O’Flanagan, and Raphoe Town FC secretary, Liam Porter, for their help with organising the trip.
Speaking on behalf Raphoe FC, secretary, Liam Porter, said the club was absolutely delighted the girls were getting such an amazing opportunity to broaden their horizons.
“As a club we try our best to promote inclusivity and we have worked with Donegal Sports Partnership on a number of terrific programmes over the past number of years that have really emphasised these values and which, we feel, have made us a better and more inclusive club. When we were offered this opportunity for the girls we jumped at the chance and we are grateful to Hugh Carlin and Myles Sweeney from the Donegal Sports Partnership, and Trevor Scanlan and Des Tomlinson from the FAI, for all their help in bringing it to fruition.”
The Raphoe club man also paid tribute to the club volunteer coaches Sinead Kelly and Ronan O’Flanagan who will travel with the girls.
“Ronan and Sinead have worked with these girls for a number of years, so it is great to have them both on the trip with the girls for what will surely be a trip of a lifetime for them all,” the secretary said.
“Sinead also put in a huge amount of work from the club point of view in terms of organising the trip and we are very grateful to her for all that hard work. We hope they all have a safe and hugely enjoyable trip. We cannot wait to hear the stories when they get back next week,” he added.