The Line-up for the inaugural season of the Continental Tyres Women’s Under-17s National League has been announced by the FAI .
There will be sides representing seven senior women’s teams including Wexford Youths, Peamount United, Shelbourne Ladies, UCD Waves, Galway WFC, Cork City WFC and Limerick Women's F.C.
In addition to those seven, four further teams have been awarded a place in the division. Athlone Town, Greystones United, Donegal Women's League and Sligo Rovers are all set to make their first appearance at a national level in the women’s game.
Sue Ronan who is the head of Women’s Football at the FAI gave her thoughts on the new division, including the new teams entering;
“This is another huge step forward for Women's football in Ireland. The Gaynor Tournament continues to grow from strength to strength but it's important we look to strengthen our elite player pathway with the new National Under-17s League.
“The gap between the Women's National League and elite grassroots football is a big one so now the creation of this league will help breach that gap.
"By creating the Under-17 league, we'll be able to see more elite players from the Gaynor Tournament progress to the next stage of their development with the 11 sides positioned across the country.
"The inclusion of Donegal Women's League, Greystones United, Athlone Town and Sligo Rovers is not just recognition for the great work these clubs are already doing in Women's Football but also recognition for the talent in these areas.
"We've seen all of these areas perform well in recent Gaynor Tournament's and it's important that we've got as many clubs around the country as possible to give everyone in Ireland a chance to play in the league."
Marie Casserly, Chairperson of the Women’s Football Committee in Sligo Rovers also spoke, stating her joy at being awarded their place;
"We're delighted to be awarded a place in the new Women's Under-17s League.
“The excellent structures established in recent years within the Sligo/Leitrim League Emerging Talent programme has developed a pool of quality local players. Those structures have led to success stories at the Gaynor Tournament with the various Sligo / Leitrim teams.”
Some examples of players who have gone on to gain success from the Sligo/Leitrim area include WNL players Derbhaile Beirne and Emma Hansberry, who play for UCD Waves and Wexford Youths respectively, as well as Northern Irish International & IFA Cup winner Catherine Hyndman and Ailbhe Clancy who was part of the World University Games squad last summer.
“We believe it's hugely important to provide those players with the next step in their elite player progression and by having a Sligo Rovers side in the league, we'll be able to provide that.
"We hope our inclusion in this national league will help our young elite female players progress to the Women's National League and beyond."
The F.A.I have yet to confirm an official start date for the initial 2018 season which will run in a truncated fashion before the first full season begins in 2019, but a date in the region of mid to late July is being targeted.