A team of Limerick gardaí are giving the red card to youth crime and tackling the issue head on in a bid to keep young men out of trouble.
The gardaí, based at Roxboro Road station, take on ‘at risk’ youths in late night indoor soccer games, which create an enjoyable diversion when anti-social behaviour is at its worst. The Late Night Soccer League has eight teams competing and sees gardaí line out with more than 70 youths.
The league takes place at The Factory: Southside Youth Space in Galvone and involves the FAI development officer, gardaí from Roxboro Community Policing Unit aided by funding for the regeneration project.
A garda spokesman said: “The Late Night Soccer Leagues aim to encourage ‘at-risk’ young people to participate in meaningful activities, thus reducing the potential for anti-social behaviour.
“The leagues take place four times a year and are open to different categories. The latest league is for young men aged 18 and over while a league before Christmas was for 11-13-year olds.”
Jason O’Connor, FAI development officer, said the association floated the idea to run a late night league and the uptake was phenomenal.
He said: “We are delighted with the people taking part and the level of integration in the southside communities. The league is about social inclusion and engagement with other people from the area as well as gardaí in helping to break down barriers and stereotypes.”
Garda Keith McCarthy, community policing unit at Roxboro Road garda station, said: “It is an ideal opportunity to connect with different sections of the local community on a less formal basis. It’s about building a rapport between the participants and ourselves, trying to see behind the uniform. All the participants come from different walks of life but the league means they come together to work as a unit.”
Sean McGlynn of Limerick City and County Council said the league is a stepping stone in improving civic engagement with the goal of making the community a better place to live.
“The Late Night Soccer League takes place during prime anti-social hours and is based around the concept of using football as a tool for social inclusion and learning,” he said.
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