A group of Under-15 girls from Raphoe Town FC travel to Austria this week to take part in the Women’s Football Festival in Vienna.
The eleven-man squad will be joined by their coaches Sinead Kelly and Ronan O’Flanagan for the event which runs from Friday June 24 to Sunday June 26.
Raphoe Town FC are the only team from the Republic of Ireland to take part in the women’s football festival. The seven other European countries that will be represented are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Croatia, Greece, Northern Ireland and Austria.
Speaking at a pre-trip meeting at Raphoe on Monday night, where he presented the traveling party with specially ordered tracksuits, Donegal Sports Partnership co-ordinator Myles Sweeney explained that his organization had been asked by the FAI to be part of this Erasmus + Sports Project.
“This opportunity grew out of a previous IFI-funded project called Soccer for Peace, which the FAI was part of with the IFA in Northern Ireland. several meetings of EU partners to discuss a draft sport for development application to the EU Erasmus+ fund around a sport for development program with a number of partners from the Western Balkans, Greece and Austria. Given our previous experience in carrying out cross-border sports projects in the North West, we were probably a good choice for this project,” he said.
“Sport Together under the leadership of VIDC (Vienna Institute for Dialogue and International Cooperation) has been approved for three years funding and working with other partners mainly in the Western Balkan countries to develop the project around interculturalism, diversity, gender and the development of training and education to support our sports leaders and volunteers,” added Mr. Sweeney.
“Donegal Sports Partnership have worked closely with Raphoe FC on previous projects so it was felt they were well positioned as a cross-community area to be the Irish representative on this part of the project,” he said. he commented.
“This is a huge opportunity for girls to travel to Austria and mingle with girls from diverse cultural backgrounds to participate in this values-based sporting event as part of Sport Together. They will explore cultures, having fun in Vienna and playing a bit of football as well. The main goals of the trip are for the girls to make new friends, maybe to better understand the cultural differences, and also to have fun and enjoy the women’s football festival and animation program in front of them,” he added.
Speaking to the players after one of their final training sessions before their Raphoe journey which begins on Thursday evening, Mr Sweeney said: “The one thing we want to make sure is that you are doing your best to enjoy coming weekend. It’s going to be a great experience to travel to another country and meet other players from other countries, get the chance to mix, explore other cultures, find out what they talk and learn new things.”
Hugh Carlin, head of diversity and special projects at Donegal Sports Partnership, thanked Raphoe Town FC underage coaches Sinead Kelly and Ronan O’Flanagan and Raphoe Town FC secretary Liam Porter for their help in the organization of the trip.
Speaking on behalf of Raphoe FC, secretary Liam Porter said the club was absolutely delighted the girls had such an incredible opportunity to broaden their horizons.
“As a club, we do our best to promote inclusiveness and we have worked with Donegal Sports Partnership on a number of great programs over the past few years which have really emphasized these values and which, according to us, have made us a better and more inclusive club.
“When we were offered this opportunity for the girls, we jumped at the chance and 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 helps make it happen.”
Club man Raphoe also paid tribute to volunteer club coaches Sinead Kelly and Ronan O’Flanagan who will be traveling with the girls.
“Ronan and Sinead have worked with these girls for a number of years so it’s great to have them both traveling with the girls on what is sure to be a trip of a lifetime for all of them,” said said the secretary.
“Sinead has also done an enormous amount of work from a club perspective in terms of organizing the trip and we are very grateful to them for all that hard work. We hope they all have a safe and extremely enjoyable trip. We can’t wait to hear the stories when they return next week,” he added.