UCD AFC will become the second Irish club to participate in the prestigious UEFA Youth League after confirmation from UEFA this morning that Ireland's U19 champions will compete in the 2017/18 competition. The UEFA Youth League involves the Under-19
UCD AFC will become the second Irish club to participate in the prestigious UEFA Youth League after confirmation from UEFA this morning that Ireland's U19 champions will compete in the 2017/18 competition.
The UEFA Youth League involves the Under-19 teams of the 32 UEFA Champions League entrants, joined by the youth domestic champions of 32 nations.
Clubs whose senior teams are in the UEFA Champions League mirror those fixtures while the 32 teams in the Domestic Champions path compete in two knockout rounds of home-and-away ties to produce eight survivors, who will progress to the play-offs to meet the eight UEFA Champions League group runners-up.
Cork City became the first Irish club to qualify for the UEFA Youth League last year where they eliminated Finnish champions HJK 1-0 on aggregate then went down 4-1 on aggregate to AS Roma after two thrilling encounters.
UCD beat Galway United 4-1 in the SSE Airtricity U19 League Final last October. They are currently top of the Southern Section of this season's SSE Airtricity U19 League.
FAI Director of Competitions Fran Gavin believes UCD's qualification for the UEFA Youth League will provide the SSE Airtricity League underage structures with another boost.
"We are very pleased to receive confirmation from UEFA of UCD's qualification for the 2017/18 UEFA Youth League," he said.
"Last year's experience for Cork City was very positive and generated a lot of interest for the talented young players within the club. The likes of Chiedoze Ogbene and Aaron Drinan received a lot of attention with their performances for City in the UEFA competition.
"UCD have a long history of producing excellent young teams and their players will relish the chance to pit their wits against the champion clubs from other UEFA nations. Their first team did very well in the UEFA Europa League qualifiers two years ago so it would be great if their U19s could emulate those performances.
"The SSE Airtricity League underage structure is about providing the best young players in the country with a chance to be tested at a higher level and the UEFA Youth League opportunity gives them another fantastic learning experience."
UCD Head of Youth Development Albert Sugg says the club is delighted with today's news and relishing the chance of performing on the European stage.
"We didn't get our hopes up for this but we said that if it happened we'd be ready for it. It's a great challenge for the club and a good reward for the lads who won the league last season," he said.
"The U19s team is currently top of the Southern Section and are in the Enda McGuil Cup final so we've kept up where we left off last year. There's a good nucleus of lads left over from last season and we've promoted a lot of the lads who were beaten in the U17 final last year.
"We knew we'd be competitive this year while as champions everybody wants to knock you down but the players and staff have put a lot of hard work in and have a lot to play for still.
"Maciej Tarnogrodzki is the head coach, Darren Burke is his assistant and our new U15s manager Padraic Fitzpatrick has also been working with them this season."