The penny has seemingly dropped for League of Ireland clubs across the country to act as community hubs, and integrate themselves within their local constituencies.
While it’s wrong to single sides out, as everyone has made an attempt to improve, or develop relationships within their areas. Irish domestic teams like Sligo Rovers, Cork City, Dundalk, and Bohemians often get praised for their individual community outreach initiatives.
Bonds between grassroots sides, and those at the highest level of our national leagues have begun to be forged.
The aforementioned Sligo Rovers have links with Mayo outfit, Westport United. As does the Dublin duo of Bohemians and St. Kevin’s Boys. While Shamrock Rovers have similar affiliations with Lucan United, Templeogue United, and Corduff FC around the capital.
St. Patrick’s Athletic x Cherry Orchard Football Club
Fellow Dubliners, St. Patrick’s Athletic have recently announced their own official working relationship with, Cherry Orchard Football Club.
The current FAI Cup holders have often used their fellow South Dublin natives as a feeder system.
With the likes of Republic of Ireland international Jamie McGrath, and Pats legend Keith Fahey playing for both clubs.
Plus, the Udinese bound James Abankwah, and current Stade Reims youngster, Glory Nzingo have both used that pre-existing pathway into eventual high-level football.
What Will Come Of This Partnership?
While this official footballing relationship will offer a full-time Partnership Manager position for one lucky candidate.
It will also provide Cherry Orchard players a natural pathway system to both underage academy, and senior League of Ireland football.
Cherry Orchard are a constant source of Irish talent. But, it’s believed the Saints will have a keen emphasis on their successful girls’ teams.
The Inchicore outfit are looking to progress their plans, and expression of interest to field a side in the Women’s National U17 League from next year.
The Saints may have a successful male academy in terms of silverware and the progression of its male graduates. But the addition of an underage women’s team would be an excellent start point to revive ladies’ football at Inchicore.
Especially now, as the club looks lightyears away from being ready to even think about entering the senior Women’s National League.
Of course, it needs to be financially feasible to do so. But, a neglect of the female game from a club with a relatively open catchment area won’t speed up the process.
Is Irish Women’s Football Entering A Golden Era?
With the slowly improving marketing push, and sponsorship opportunities presenting itself to the women’s domestic league in Ireland, it should be a goal of every club to nurture the underage female players on the same level as the males.
Vera Pauw’s Republic of Ireland Women’s side have been on a steady upward trajectory since her appointment in 2019.
While Ireland missed out narrowly on a play-off position for the 2022 European Championships in England. They’re still in the race for a coveted play-off slot in their on-going 2023 World Cup qualification campaign.
Add this in with their well deserved 27th standing in the most recent FIFA rankings, the joint highest in the history of our women’s senior international side, and it’s evident to see strides are being made.
Arsenal’s Katie McCabe, Liverpool’s Leanne Kiernan, and of course, Stephanie Roche are all morphing into household names.
The likes of Shelbourne, Wexford, and Peamount United are also doing outstanding work at a domestic level.
It would be fantastic to see these brilliant football partnerships between amateur, and League of Ireland clubs cater a natural pathway for both men’s, and equally women’s underage academy squads.
These relationships are key to unlocking the next young superstar for League of Ireland clubs. It may produce that new relatable household name. And provide a star attraction for the Women’s National League in the decades to come.
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