European adventure

Wexford Youths will play Champions League football for the first time today

We spoke to manager Will Doyle ahead of their qualifying group stage opener in Poland.

WEXFORD YOUTHS WILL taste Champions League football for the first time later today and manager Will Doyle is hoping the debutants can be this season’s surprise package.

The 2015 Women’s National League (WNL) winners face Lithuanian club Gintra Universitetas in the Polish town of Kleczew at 2.30pm Irish time before meeting local club Medyk Konin on Thursday and finishing the qualifying group stage against Welsh outfit Cardiff Met this Sunday.

Only the top team from each group will progress to the last-32 and, having watched video footage of two of their opponents, Doyle knows his girls will have to be at their very best to earn a knockout tie.

“We will need to be prepared and focused and I think we’ve done that to the best of our ability,” the Youths boss told The42. “Luckily or unluckily, whichever way you want to look at it, two of the teams we’re playing qualified for the last 32 last year so there is quite a lot of footage of them.

“Konin got beaten by Glasgow City in extra-time and Gintra made it to the last 16 last and lost to Brondby, who went onto the semi-final. So hopefully they will be underestimating us because we are an unknown quantity.”

Wexford Youths Champions League Doyle and the Youths squad leaving Dublin on Monday. Twitter / Youths Women Twitter / Youths Women / Youths Women

Preparations at home have gone well, with Youths playing several training matches and friendly games to get their match fitness up to speed during the WNL off-season. They have also added some quality to their ranks in the shape of five signings — three of which are returning to the club having had spells there previously.

Experienced midfielders Ruth Fahy and Emma Hansberry have joined, while Maria Delahunty, Clare Conlon and Linda Douglas all return.

“What we’re looking for is that added bit of competition within the team and the squad,” said Doyle. “Preparation-wise, it has gone well here in Ireland but we’re going into the unknown in Poland because we haven’t been out there to check out facilities and we don’t really know the teams we’re coming up against.

We’re basing it off what we have seen from videos so it could have been better if we had a little bit more money to actually go watch the teams in person and check out the facilities beforehand.”

The issue of funds has brought an added headache as Youths’ main sponsor recently withdrew their financial support. While the club look for a replacement, the girls took part in fundraising to ensure that the entire panel and coaching staff could travel.

“Our main sponsor has pulled out last minute so we’re going to the Champions League without one, which is quite unfortunate,” Doyle explains. “We’ve been trying to sort it out and it looks like we will have an auction just to get it sold.

“We had to get three brand new sets of jerseys done up, which obviously cost a lot of money. When we get back, we will probably have to get a new set again when we do eventually get a sponsor.

“While we received a lot of support from the FAI and UEFA give an allocation as well so we got our flights paid for, the girls have brought in money themselves to cover the cost of the whole squad going. It costs an awful lot more to bring the whole squad of 25 plus the coaching staff instead of just 18.

“So they went out themselves and did some fundraising to make sure everyone gets to go and enjoy the whole experience.”

Whatever happens over the next week, Doyle is certain that his side are not just going along for the ride.

“We’re going out there to compete as best we can,” he said. “We wouldn’t be going just to make up the numbers.

“The big thing from my point of view is that we’re as best prepared as we can be and we show what we can do, then maybe a little bit of luck might get us across the line.”

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