Letterkenny Rovers will write another chapter in their history on Saturday afternoon when they make their debut in the Airtricity Under-19 League Northern Section against Dundalk at Oriel Park (kick-off 2pm).
It’s something of a baptism of fire for Anthony Gorman’s young troops as they come up against one of the most established clubs in League of Ireland football.
Of course, it’s not a totally new experience for Rovers who competed in the Eircom Under-21 League back in 2006 and 2007 under then coach Trevor Scanlon before the FAI re-structured the league to include League of Ireland clubs only.
But Rovers are back in the mix again this year where they will join fellow Ulster Senior League club Fanad United along with Derry City, Sligo Rovers and Dundalk in their regional group.
The Letterkenny men enjoyed a good work-out last week in a 1-1 friendly draw with Finn Harps at Leckview Park but will be missing influential midfielder Dale Gorman who is away on international duty with Northern Ireland under-17’s in Poland.
“We’re probably a year or two early in terms of the players that we are bringing through and their development”, said team manager Gorman earlier this week. “Most of them will still be underage next year again but it will be a tremendous learning curve and experience for them.”
Last season, Rovers won league titles at both under-18 and under-16 level while the likes of Dan O’Donnell, Odhran McMacken, Dale Gorman, Kieran Doherty, Michael Herrity and Michael Miller have featured regularly for Eamonn McConigley’s senior team.
“Obviously, we lost some very good players last year in Ryan Lonergan and Cathal McDaid to Finn Harps and Conor Tourish to Derry City – players that would be otherwise with us for this campaign – but those lads have done well and are making good progress. And Ryan McConnell has, of course, gone across to Manchester United”, added Gorman.
As well as competing in the Northern Section of the Under-19 League, Rovers will also go into an open draw for the cup competition where they could be paired against the likes of Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians or Cork City. The club will also keep hold of their under-18 team.
“We have decided to keep our team in the Donegal Youth League. We are the league champions and are one of the few clubs to be part of the league every season so we want to maintain that. We have a strong panel of players to service both teams and we also have good under-16 players who can comfortably make the step up when required”.
Saturday’s opening fixture at Dundalk promises to be a tough early test as the Lilywhites finished second behind Finn Harps last season and they also play their matches on a synthetic grass surface.Tags: