Young people from different backgrounds have found that soccer is the international language that can bring them together, thanks to a Garda initiative that has been running in Dundalk for the last number of months.
The Late Night League, which has been running in the town for 12 years, is funded by the Children’s Services and Facilities Fund, and is organised by a committee made up of Dundalk Gardai (Paul Burke JLO Garda) and representatives from Dundalk FC (Liam Byrnes), the FAI (Mick Neville), Louth County Council and LMETB.
The facilities at Dundalk IT are used for the games.
Usually, two late night soccer leagues are run in any given year, but there were four this year, and they have been incredibly successful, according to Garda Burke.
He said: ‘It is all about community involvement and involving as many young people from diverse backgrounds as possible. It is free – it doesn’t cost anything to attend and it is open to those aged 16 to 18 years old.
‘This year, we had on average 30 young people involved in the games, which took place between 9pm and 10pm on Thursday nights. The group is made up of all young men and all communities are represented this year.
‘It has worked really well. It provides an opportunity for young people to engage with Gardaí and to keep active. It also provides a chance for the young men to meet with others from outside their usual social circles and to begin to understand each other.
‘Any troubles or issues are parked on the sidelines for the games, and aren’t as important any more when the final whistle blows.
‘The young people involved were absolutely brilliant. The games were played on the four Thursdays in November and the first two Monday and Thursdays of December’.
Garda Burke said he is particularly pleased with the project this year and praised the youth workers and community leaders who encouraged participation in the Late Night League, including Vincie McCrory, Banjo Bannon, John Connolly, Imam Nooh Buye and Gardai Paul Connolly and Dara Prior.
He said Dundalk’s new Superintendent, Charles Armstrong, attended one of the games in the early weeks following his appointment. He was very supportive of the project.
And some of the games were attended by Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú.
Garda Burke said: ‘We are delighted with the response we have received from those who participated. It is a strong, long-established project that we hope to continue for many years to come’.