Young hopefuls primed for tilt at Kennedy Cup glory
AS TRAPATTONI'S Troops encounter the best Europe has to offer in the European championships, a no less dedicated team will wrap themselves in the purple and gold and travel west to represent Wexford in the largest tournament of its kind in Europe for Under-14 soccer.
While this tournament may not be covered by Sky Sports, the BBC or even RTE, try telling any of the 600-plus players that it is any less important. The Kennedy Cup is a long-established competition bringing all the leagues in Ireland to compete against each other and has been the springboard for some of Trapattoni's Troops such as Robbie Keane, Damien Duff, John O'Shea, Shane Long and Wexford's own Kevin Doyle.
The current crop of young hopefuls have been brought together by the manager, William Doyle, FAI Wexford County Council Development Officer, and assistant manager Robbie Moore some three years ago, and they have Wexford Youths and the League of Ireland's Division 1 top goalscorer, Tom Elmes, as head coach.
Eamonn Doyle is goalkeeping coach, while Nick Cosgrave looks after their strengh and conditioning and is currently studying for his UEFA B licence in Carlow I.T. Dylan Mernagh, currently playing for Waterford United in the League of Ireland Division 1, is also on the coaching staff along with Hugh Larkin who is responsible for scouting and Ashley Haughton (kitman). John Michael Porter is coaching adviser while Simon Haughton was involved but due to work commitments had to resign as goalkeeping coach.
Preparation for this competition has been long and began with the Cashin Cup followed by a trip to Barcelona, losing out on penalties in the final of the Cremin Cup.
A trip to Portugal followed, playing the local sides as well as a friendly game against the Kildare team which was out there at the same time, and there was a trip to Donegal where they played a number of teams, two of whom they will meet in the group stage of the Kennedy Cup, Inishowen and Roscommon.
The Kennedy Cup will be the culmination of three years' work in which all the players in Wexford were invited to try out for the FAI Emerging Talent programme.
As with every year, a manager is selected to prepare these lads for the next three years, taking them to the biggest inter-league competition in Europe.
It is scarcely believable that just a few short years ago this highly-talented group of players came together red raw and naive.
This year's young hopefuls are Adam Dunbar, Conor Levingston, Connel Flood, Corey Chambers, David Curley, Eoin Doyle, Eoin Porter, Jamie Doyle, Kieran Kelly, Luke Sinnott, Mark Rossiter, Martin O'Connor, Mikey Quigley, Neil Murphy, Paul Carton, Philip McDermott, Ronan Devereux, Seán Duffy, Stephen Hempenstall and Thomas O'Connor.
The coaching staff would like to thank all the guest coaches who took sessions over this time, everybody who supported the numerous fundraising events held on behalf of these lads, the parents for patience and an abundance of tireless effort. And last but by no means least they would like to reserve their biggest thanks for each and every player who tried out and failed to make the final squad, whether it was an early exit or those desperately unlucky not to make the final selection. Theirs was the biggest contribution of all.