Dundalk FC representative Eric Finn – aka XampL_Xx – was crowned 2023 ELOI champion at the Aviva Stadium on Wednesday night.
The event, which saw Ireland’s top eight EA SPORTS FIFA 23 players compete for the ELOI title, featured Yung Shakur as MC and was streamed live on the FAI’s YouTube channel.
Eric, who reached the semi-finals with Bohemians in 2021, went one better with the Lilywhites thanks to a dramatic golden goal win over Drogheda United’s Owen Mulligan in an epic final that spanned four matches.
As a result, he has now secured one of two coveted spots in the EA SPORTS FIFA 23 Global Series Playoff Playins which begin in June.
“I’m beyond ecstatic,” he said afterwards. “I won after 105 minutes of the fourth match against Owen thanks to a lofted header from Anthony Moyo!
“For the last five years I’ve devoted my time to FIFA esports and today I can call myself the champion of Ireland.
“I’ve been doing this for five years and I did it on top of working full-time jobs in AIB and as a swimming teacher but I always had a real passion for esports,” explained Eric.
“About two years ago, Jesse Lingard got in touch with me to play with his team and ever since then, I’ve been full-time playing FIFA so it’s gone pretty well.”
Eric is also a representative of the Republic of Ireland esports team that has reached the FIFAe Nations Playoff, a tournament with a €100k prize on offer to the winners.
“We’re very much big underdogs with Ireland and we’re up against Spain, Portugal, Germany and the Netherlands but hopefully we can get the job done.
“It’s slightly different with Ireland. With Dundalk, it’s one versus one whereas with internationals, you’re part of a two-man team. You have to change your style a little bit for internationals to work together with your team-mate.”
Originally launched in 2021, the ELOI is a key programme created by the FAI to support the development of esports throughout the Republic of Ireland, in partnership with Epic Global, an Irish esports agency.
An EA SPORTS esports player represents every club in the SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division and SSE Airtricity Men’s First Division.
“This unique competition offers us a portal into a whole new generation of fans who can find a new way of connecting with our League of Ireland clubs,” said League of Ireland director, Mark Scanlon.
“It is an innovative competition that will inspire a whole new set of supporters in the League of Ireland.”
Epic Global, MD, Trev Keane said: “We were honoured to partner with the FAI again for the 2023 instalment of ELOI.
“This year we created the most ambitious programme to date with the FAI and ELOI supporting Irish esports from grassroots all the way to national representation for your country!
“We were also been keen to celebrate communities this year and the programme culminated in an exclusive event at the Aviva Stadium which celebrated the best of Irish esports, music and youth culture.”
You can follow Eric on his Twitter page.