West Ham United will be welcomed back to Cork after a fantastic week in south west Ireland.
The Hammers enjoyed a productive pre-season training camp in County Cork, impressing their hosts at the Fota Island Resort, University College Cork and Cork City FC. The facilities, weather, food and hospitality all exceeded the expectations of Sam Allardyce and his squad and the manager has already expressed a wish to return to the region in the future.
Likewise, Fota Island Resort general manager John O'Flynn and Cork City FC chief executive Timmy Murphy praised West Ham for the way the Club approached their visit to Ireland.
"Fota Island is just a small bit outside Cork city centre and is a beautiful resort," O'Flynn explained. "We have golf courses here and the wildlife park next door, but we are also proud of our training facilities and were delighted to have West Ham over here. It's a great buzz for the resort and a great buzz for the city and, thanks be to God, we got the weather to add to it as well.
"At the hotel we have a hydrotherapy facility with pools and a bath to aid the whole player recovery process, while we also have a walking river which helps with rehabilitation of leg injuries and the like. We also have the swimming pools for bits and pieces. We also have two training pitches and a fully-equipped gym.
"The fact we have these facilities on site means the players can rest much more easily during their down-time. We also have the golf courses, driving range and cycling and walking tracks which they can use there as well."
Fota Island has played host to a number of high-profile sports clubs previously, including Manchester United, Watford, the Munster Rugby squad and a variety of Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) football and hurling teams.
"All the teams who come to us are well looked after. The groundstaff here make sure we always have immaculate pitches and we have a lot of GAA teams come to use them - nearly every county has been here at some stage. The first team to use it was Tipperary and they went on to win the All-Ireland title that year, so it's a lucky pitch, that's for sure!"
O'Flynn said that, while Fota Island is a five-star resort, the venue has accommodation to suit families and he has encouraged West Ham fans to come and visit.
"We have the full menu of facilities here, from the family lodges to the top-end corporate. Everybody is welcome at Fota Island, where we have the lodges and wildlife park for families and the pitches for Premier League football teams. We look forward to welcoming West Ham supporters, so bring them on!"
Mark Noble meets supporters during the pre-season trip to Cork
Murphy, meanwhile, was delighted to welcome a Barclays Premier League club to play at the Rebel Army's Turner's Cross stadium. The match, of course, ended in a 6-2 victory for the Hammers, but the Cork City FC chief executive said the whole event had been a rousing success.
"Without a doubt, West Ham is one of the biggest teams we've had come to Cork in quite a number of years," Murphy confirmed. "West Ham has huge connections with the city of Cork. A lot of the older generation of Corkonians would have spent time in London working in Dagenham for the Ford Motor Company, so there would have been huge connectivity with West Ham. The younger generation are now getting the feel of that.
"The whole week has been brilliant, with huge interaction between the players and local Cork people, which we're grateful for. There is huge goodwill on both sides, so it's been fantastic."
While West Ham's week-long stay in Cork may now be over, Murphy has encouraged West Ham fans to pay the club a visit if they are ever in south west Ireland. Likewise, the chief executive would love to see the two clubs forge a more formal connection in the future.
"Looking around Cork city on Sunday, there were lots of West Ham people in the city centre showing their colours. I was out in Turner's Cross and one of the houses by the away end had West Ham colours up! We'll forgive him on this occasion!
"We would love to see an association with West Ham United. Quite a lot of Cork people go to England to watch games so hopefully the trip will boost West Ham as well. When West Ham move to the Olympic Stadium and need a few more fans to fill it, some Cork people will come across!
"Any time West Ham go abroad, we'd love to see them here and we'd welcome them with open arms."