12 August 2016
By Tom Collins
Cork City’s and Dundalk’s Under 19 teams could soon be the first Irish teams to mix it with the very best young talent in Europe in the UEFA Youth League.
The two SSE Airtricity Under 19 league sides face a nervous wait to see if they will feature in Europe’s elite Under 19 league, the first time any Irish side has qualified for the competition.
For Dundalk, the equation is quite simple. If Stephen Kenny’s side can progress to the UEFA Champions League group stage by beating Legia Warsaw in the play-off, the Lilywhites’ Under 19 side will automatically qualify for the UEFA Youth League.
Dundalk’s Under 19 manager Martin Connolly has admitted there is a huge amount of excitement at the possibility of qualifying for the competition.
Connolly said: “I told the team a couple of weeks ago that this could be a possibility. They couldn’t believe it. They were star-struck with the idea.
“Luckily, they’re in a rich vein of form as they’re top of the league and that helps their confidence. It’s a great league which has always been competitive and it keeps getting better and better.
“The Under 17s league has helped as we get to work with players longer and we’ll reap the rewards in the years to come.
“But, if ourselves and Cork City were able to qualify for the UEFA Youth League, it would be a great boost for the entire set-up.”
The Rebel Army also has a great chance of making the competition for the first time after winning the SSE Airtricity Under 19 league title last season.
If any two of Celtic, APOEL, Dundalk’s opponents Legia Warsaw, Manchester City and Ajax progress through their play-off ties, Cork will be handed a place in the UEFA Youth League.
Cork City’s Under 19s manager Steven Bermingham believes qualifying for the UEFA Youth League would be huge for the SSE Airtricity Under 19 league.
Bermingham said: “There is a real buzz about the club at the moment. It hasn’t been confirmed yet and it is dependent on results in the Champions League so we’ll see after that. It would be a huge thing for the players and a huge thing for the club. But more importantly, the whole league would benefit as it gives our youth players the chance to play against the best players from Europe.”