Under 19s Elite League kicks off for the Drogs

November 7, 2018

By Ciaran D’Arcy

With all eyes inevitably trained on the resumption of Premier League action across the water this weekend, many Irish football fans will no doubt be oblivious to the start of a less illustrious league on home shores.

This Sunday will see Drogheda United’s stars of the future ignite a spark that will hopefully burn for decades, as they gear up to face Cork City in the Under 19 League of Ireland Elite Division in Bishopstown at 2pm.

Comprised of mainly local players with a smattering of talent from around the Fingal, Louth and Meath region, Drogheda’s Under 19s will be hoping to emulate the league-winning form of their opponents this weekend.

Currently reigning Under 19 Elite Division champions, Cork have proven somewhat of a revelation at underage level in recent years despite the often tumultuous circumstances surrounding the club, and Rory Kerr’s young team couldn’t have wished for a harder assignment for their debut fixture this season.

That said, the green shoots of growth within the Drogs’ youth structure are evident for all to see.

Given the continually dwindling first-team budgets for League of Ireland clubs, many of them have adopted the refreshing approach of simply giving youth a chance- an approach that is already paying dividends for south Louth’s premier football club.

Current Under 19 goalkeeper Shane Finnegan has played a starring role in the Drogs’ EA Sports Cup odyssey this season and, with fellow youth-team players Reece McEnteer and Stephen Watters finding themselves on the periphery of first team squads in recent times, the future looks bright for the youth of Drogheda.

Indeed, with both the Under 17 and Under 18 panels currently flourishing, the claret and blue faithful can harbour realistic ambitions of a conveyor belt of local talent coming through to the first team to complement the presence of perennial fans’ favourites, the Brennan brothers.

Hopes will be high for an improvement on last year’s eighth place finish in a 12 team league. However, manager Kerr can count on the retention of much of last year’s squad due to their age, a fact that surely bodes well for the 19s’ chances in an ultra-competitive division.

“We’ve got a squad of 22 this year and they are all very eager youngsters”, said Kerr. “Having finished in 8th position last season, our goal this year is to finish between 6th and 8th. Within that squad of 22, we have eight who can play next year which gives us both continuity and experience and which assists with the blooding of new players”.

Of course, the support of the Drogheda public is always appreciated for such a worthwhile venture. With home games taking place every two weeks in Hunky Dorys Park, United fans of every vintage are encouraged to offer their support to the cream of this country’s Under 19 crop over the coming months.

On the away front, the addition of Finn Harps and Cobh Ramblers to the top tier of Irish Under 19 football may add some extra digits to the milometer but, nonetheless, Kerr’s charges will be looking ahead undeterred and with great anticipation at what is set to be another blockbuster Under 19 campaign.