THE draws for the Elite Phases of the 2012-13 UEFA Women's U17 and U19 Championships were made last week at UEFA headquarters in Nyon with the Republic of Ireland receiving tough draws in both competitions. The draws were also made for the first rounds of the 2013-14 competitions and Ireland will host the U19 mini-qualifying tournament next September.
The U-19 Women were among the top six seeds in their draw after emerging from their first round group with a 100 per cent record against Serbia, Lativa and Cyprus but once again they got no luck in the draw as they found themselves in Group 1 alongside defending champions Sweden, 2008 winners Italy and the Netherlands who will host the group. Both Italy and Sweden were group winners in the first round while Austria finished as runners-up to Switzerland in Group 10.
The U-17 Women, who emerged from their first round group with three wins over Belarus, Georgia and Finland, were second seeds in their draw and they were drawn against Poland, Norway and Austria who will host the group. Norway were top seeds after winning a group that contained Turkey, Latvia and Wales while Poland finished runners-up to Spain and Austria were runners-up to Sweden on goal difference after finishing level on points.
Dave Connell, who is manager of both Ireland teams, attended the draws in Nyon, and gave his reaction afterwards.
"They are all tough draws at this stage of the competition but we certainly drew some of the big guns in the U-19 competition as they don't come much tougher than the holders Sweden, Italy and Holland. We went into that draw as top seeds and this has brought us back down to reality but, to be honest, we never seem to had much luck in past draws either. That said, I don't think any of the others will be looking forward to facing us in either competition," said Connell.
The U-17 draw was tinged with sadness as the Head of Delegation for the U-17s first round qualifying tournament in Belarus last September was Jeremy Dee who was tragically killed in a road traffic accident while travelling to Dublin for the Bus Eireann Women's National League game between Shamrock Rovers and Castlebar Celtic, whom he managed. Connell said that Jeremy Dee was very much in his thoughts as the draw being made.
"Jeremy was with us in Belarus as Head of Delegation when we qualified for the Elite Phase and it would nice if we could get through this group and qualify for the finals for him as he will be sadly missed," said Connell.
In the draws for the 2013-14 competitions, the U-17s will travel to Russia for their first round group and face the hosts as well as Turkey and Bosnia Herzogovina while the U19s are going to host a group that will contain Denmark, Greece and Kazakhstan.
Airtricity becomes official energy partner
to Irish football
The FAI and the country's fastest growing energy provider, Airtricity, have announced details of a two year extension of its title sponsorship of the Airtricity League. Airtricity will also become Official Energy Partner to the Association and FAI international teams.
Airtricity has been title sponsor of the Airtricity League since 2010. In the three seasons since, Airtricity has enjoyed a very successful period for the domestic game involving dramatic title races, Airtricity League selections playing some of Europe's biggest clubs, increased TV coverage and an unprecedented breakthrough into the group stages of European competition. In 2011 Airtricity added title sponsorship of the new Airtricity U19 league, underlining its support for our next generation of elite players.
Now, in addition to extending its title sponsorship of the Airtricity League, Airtricity is further enhancing its commitment to Irish football by becoming Official Energy Partner to the FAI and its international teams. Announcing the sponsorship, Airtricity's Managing Director Stephen Wheeler said:
"Airtricity's support of Irish football powers ahead today as we become official energy partner of the FAI and as we extend our title sponsorship of the Airtricity League. We are very proud to support the domestic game in this country which is producing more and more top stars of the future like Shane Long, Kevin Doyle, James McClean and Seamus Coleman to name just a few, creating ever stronger ties with our international teams. Those links and the success of the partnership make it a natural step for us to become Official Energy Partner of the FAI and its international teams."
Welcoming the sponsorship, FAI CEO John Delaney said: "We are very happy to be sharing in the success of Airtricity whose growth in the Irish market is being matched by a strengthened commitment to Irish domestic and international football. Their decision is a big endorsement of our sport and the passion and interest it generates in every household in the country. We look forward to helping them continue their record growth in the Irish market."
Shane Long has been in magnificent form for West Brom this season and scored again at the weekend as West Brom moved up to their in the Premiership. His performance the previous game against Chelsea was outstanding and had the Match of the Days pundits drooling.
He has an eye for goal and a tremendous work rate, allied to a fair bit of pace. Long now has seven goals for the season with five of these coming in the Premiership, let's hope he can maintain this for the next few months as the international team will surely benefit.