The start of the SSE Airtricity League is only ten days away and yesterday Bohemians were out front with two statements that bode well for the future of the club.
The home area for the season-opening game against Shamrock Rovers is now sold out completely and looking further ahead the club has formally agreed a new partnership with St Kevin’s Boys FC which will see them enter a joint team when the 2018 SSE Airtricity U15 League season kicks off in March.
This arrangement will be extended to U13 level when the new SSE Airtricity U13 League commences in March 2019.
It brings together the League of Ireland’s oldest club and the country’s most famous schoolboy club and also clears up the fact that St Kevin’s were named as one of the teams to compete in the new underage league structure, the only such club to be so without a formal link to an existing SSE Airtricity senior club.
Other leading clubs like Mount Merrion with UCD, Corduff United with Shamrock Rovers and St Joseph’s Boys with Bray Wanderers will also play at this level in a similar partnership arrangement between youth and established teams.
Ireland’s most recent senior international squads featured two former Bohemians players in Stephen Ward and Matt Doherty and the former St Kevin’s duo of Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick.
Six members of the 2018 Bohemians first-team squad have come from St Kevins who also provide a strong line of players to the Bohemians U19 and U17 squads.
“On behalf of the board of management of Bohemian FC, I would like to say how pleased we are to enter into this partnership,” said Club President Chris Brien.
“Players can now see their future stretch before them and there is no rush to try and get a move abroad.”
“I believe it is a perfect match between a club with a great history in schoolboy football and the oldest senior club in the state, one with its own wonderful history over 128 years.”
“While our elite section has been successful to date with our previous link to the NDSL, I believe we can move to a different level with this partnership.”
“St Kevin’s have produced a number of outstanding players over the years and this partnership gives a clear pathway for their players to go from schoolboy football, through the elite teams all the way into the senior team.”
“It also means that Bohemians are getting excellent young players at all levels. It is a definite win-win situation for both clubs.”
“Players can now see their future stretch before them and there is no rush to try and get a move abroad. They can remain in Ireland, complete their education and still play football at an elite level. If they do eventually move abroad they will be more mature and, hopefully, be better prepared to handle the situation.”
“We at St Kevin’s Boys Club are delighted that this strategic partnership has been agreed,” added St Kevin’s Football Director Ken Donohoe.
“It is an opportunity for both clubs to further grow and present a clearly defined pathway for coaches and elite players from the youngest age groups at foundation level right through to the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division and beyond using the expertise within both clubs that have made them so successful in their respective spheres up to now.”
“Both clubs have a strong history of developing some of the finest players that the country has produced. This partnership will only enhance that and it will create opportunities for players from both clubs to maximise their potential in a highly professional and competitive environment.”
At a time when a smaller proportion of players from Ireland, and indeed England, are getting an opportunity to play in the top levels of English football, the development of a strong player pathway through youth levels can only be good for the domestic game and the players.
Sport for Business Coverage of the 2018 SSE Airtricity League will continue through the season, supported by our friends at SSE Airtricity.