Giles leads team of 600 on path to football dreams
JOHNNY GILES was noted for having two good feet.
Yesterday, he put his best one forward as he fielded a 600-strong team of charity walkers to raise hundreds of thousands of euro for grassroots soccer across the country.
The 71-year-old led from the front as celebrities, sports stars, schoolboy soccer players and their managers followed in his footsteps for a one-mile trek around Lansdowne Road on Dublin's southside.
Former Ireland star Ray Houghton, FAI President John Delaney and singer Dickie Rock were among those who togged out for the John Giles Foundation 'Walk of Dreams' event.
Mr Giles hopes to raise more than €380,000 for club facilities and soccer-related projects nationwide.
"This shows the power of the football family to come out in their droves and raise much-needed funds for clubs and community projects through the foundation," the RTE pundit said.
Teams such as Orchard Celtic, Old Castle and Baldoyle Utd donned their team colours and set the pace for the now annual event.
Bursts of heavy rainfall couldn't dampen the spirits of the faithful as "Olé, Olé, Olé" rang out around the old Lansdowne Road citadel.
The football community the length and breadth of the country joined in, with events in 19 other locations such as Letterkenny, Buncrana, Sligo, Mayo, Kerry, Wexford and Galway.
The event, which is sponsored by the Irish Independent, ended with a 60-minute John Giles Challenge Match on the hallowed turf of Lansdowne Road.
The stadium was transformed into the Theatre of Dreams for the 40 hand-picked players who lined out for the charity match.
The promising schoolboy players flaunted their wares in front of friends and family while Republic of Ireland veterans looked on from the sidelines.
"This is an incredibly important event. We're out here today to raise as much money as possible and we're right behind John and his idea is to unite Irish football," said FAI President, John Delaney.
Proving there is strength in numbers, last year over €360,000 was collected by a variety of clubs, schools and community groups.
The walk is devised specifically for soccer clubs, with 50pc of the money raised remaining with the teams, while the other half is re-invested by the foundation into 62 community projects nationwide.