The National Football Exhibition has arrived in Letterkenny and is now open to the public.
The Regional Cultural Centre provides the location for the fifth of seven regional stops as the build-up continues to four UEFA EURO 2020 games in Dublin next June.
Speaking to invited guests at the opening on Thursday night, Mayor of Letterkenny Municipal District, Councillor John O’Donnell said: “It’s fantastic to have such a great exhibition visit Letterkenny and I hope the people of Donegal show their support. As mayor I am delighted to assist the exhibition in any way I can over the coming ten days.”
FAI General Manager, Mr Noel Mooney noted the importance of local grassroots football, with the FAI ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’, referencing the fine work of locals including Jim McConnell, Dessie Kelly, Brid McGinty, Finn Harps and other clubs in Donegal.
Mr Mooney referenced EURO 88 as a defining moment in inspiring the nation and urged EURO 2020 and the ongoing Women’s European Championship qualifying campaign to act as catalysts for the future. “We’ve had some fantastic results recently and hopefully these continue. We are looking to build better structures domestically in order to produce more of the talent we are seeing coming through at Under-21s and underage level.”
Fr Michael Sweeney was honoured as the second National Football Exhibition’s ‘Grassroots Hero’ following its introduction during the Waterford visit. Mr Mooney described Fr Sweeney as ‘a person of myth’ having heard so much about him, both domestically and through colleagues at UEFA. Fr Sweeney helped bring Fanad United to prominence in Ireland with incredible success, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s.
National Football Exhibition Ambassador Ray Houghton received a rapturous cheer and spoke of his fond memories of Donegal and visiting with his father in 1989. Houghton called on the people of Ireland to make sure we provide the best experience for the third largest event in world sport next year.
“Dublin is hosting four games next year and it is important that we provide the best possible platform for players and visiting spectators. We want to give them the same hospitality our fans received in 2012 and 2016 to ensure they want to return and experience more of what this country has to offer.”
Separated into six different zones to represent various parts of Irish and European football, the exhibition contains rare match programmes, unique match jerseys, treasured memorabilia and an interactive element with a Photo Booth to get your picture taken, a recording booth to practice your commentary skills, and quiz stations to test your footballing knowledge.
The local Donegal zone sees contributions from Finn Harps FC, Derry City and memorabilia showcasing the career of local legends, Packie Bonner and Shay Given. A display on Buncrana’s Charlie O’Hagan also features as he had a successful career including being named the first international Head Coach of Spanish giants Sevilla.
Another local element for the Donegal leg is a Football Table Quiz which will take place at Arena 7, Letterkenny on Thursday, 26 September at 9pm. Prizes include a signed Republic of Ireland jersey and all proceeds will go to local charity, Cara House. Entrance is €10 per person or €30 for a team of four.
The exhibition has also teamed up with Blue September – the Marie Keating Foundation’s ‘Stand Up For Your Prostate’ pin badges will be available alongside the commemorative National Football Exhibition badge. The campaign which is running throughout Blue September aims to increase awareness of prostate cancer and encourages men to WATCH, TALK and ACT. More information can be found by visiting https://www.mariekeating.ie/standupforyourprostate/.
The National Football Exhibition will be open to the public, free of charge, until Sunday, September 29.
Monday – Wednesday 11:00-16:00
Thursday – Sunday 11:00-18:00*
*Friday 20th 15:00 – 22:00