The SSE Airtricity U15 National League is set to begin this weekend.
Shamrock Rovers U15 Head Coach Damien Duff, FAI High Performance Director Ruud Dokter, Republic of Ireland U15 Head Coach Jason Donohue and four players from each U15 Group were at FAI HQ, Abbotstown on Wednesday ahead of the first fixture of the season.
The SSE Airtricity League U15 National League will be made up of 24 teams from across the country and they will all participate in a shortened 2017 season. There will be four groups with six teams competing in each group and the top two teams from each group will then qualify for the finals stage.
All 20 SSE Airtricity League teams are represented with three schoolboy league sides – Kerry Schoolboys League, Mayo League, Monaghan/Cavan Partnership – and St. Kevin’s Boys making up the 24 sides in the truncated season.
Shamrock Rovers U15 Head Coach Damien Duff said: “I can’t wait. We’ve been back training four or five weeks now and I know it is something that the players are really excited about.
“We starton Saturdaywith Galway United at home so yeah, I’m just as excited as when I was a player.
“I’m really enjoying the role. I asked the club for the role and I want to learn and develop as a coach, and I thought this was the perfect way to do it. For me, the Shamrock Rovers U15 job is the biggest job in the world to me at the minute.”
FAI High Performance Director Ruud Dokter commented: “The national U15 league is the next step in the elite player development pathway in Ireland.
“Of course, the U19s and U17s league have been very successful. We saw Cork City compete in the UEFA Youth League last season and the Republic of Ireland U17 side qualified for the finals this summer, with 10 home-based players which is fantastic.
“To build on this success, it is crucial that we now extend that pathway and I’m really looking forward to seeing what the future brings.”
Republic of Ireland U15 Head Coach Jason Donohue said: “It opens up more opportunities for the best players in the country to play with each other which will only benefit the country going forward.
“It is all about development. I’m going to work with the coaches from the league, invite them to Abbotstown and different sessions to show them what we do at international level which will hopefully benefit them as well.
“We want to make sure the players we bring in are better equipped to deal with international football, and I’m sure the national U15 league will do that.”
PHOTO:Damien Duff with Under-15 club players, from left, Adam Fitzpatrick of Limerick F.C, Warren Curran of Bohemian F.C, Bryan Lynch of Sligo Rovers F.C, and Dáire Cullen of UCD F.C, in attendance at the SSE Airtricity National Under 15 League photo-call at FAI HQ, Abbotstown in Dublin. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile.