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lfl development simply the best! THE success of the Leinster Football League's Development League has been hailed by players and management of the two finalists for the cup competition - Ballybrack FC and Sacred Heart FC.

The pair will meet in the final at Wayside Celtic's Jackson Park on Saturday, May 25th and between both clubs they have amassed close to 150 goal in league and cup action this season.

It augurs well for a goal-filled showdown but for both managers, Mark Merrigan and Stephen Rooney of Ballybrack FC and John O'Reilly and coach Rod Gaskin of opponents Sacred Heart FC, their participation in the LFL Development League is nothing short of a runaway success on league and cup fronts this season.

Promoted as a bridge between the schoolboy game and junior football, both clubs have a strong presence of youthful 17 and 18 year olds in the main while, remarkably, Sacred Heart have operated with just 13 players all season.

"We've had five games in seven days and that's been a heavy schedule but apart from that it's been great for the lads this season," said Mark Merrigan of Ballybrack. "We've only two 19 year olds but it's been a fantastic experience for all of us," added Merrigan.

"Other leagues are now looking at introducing their own Development Leagues, so you can see that it's been positive, now that others are copying the LFL, he added.

John O'Reilly of Sacred Heart agreed with Merrigan's assessment saying: "It's been excellent for the players and it's a great stepping stone up to 'senior' football. You lose too many players trying to make the jump up to junior football and this is the ideal platform to bridge the gap," he stated.

Both club's came together in Liffey Valley Shopping Centre last Thursday for a photocall in advance of the final in front of Best Menswear who are the sponsors of the Development League where they were met by Assistant store manager Vincent O'Brien and LFL President Tony O'Dowd.

The ringing endorsement of the LFL was sweet music to O'Dowd, whose league has been hallmarked by the introduction of ground-breaking initiatives such as women's football alongside the Development League success. O'Dowd indicated that the re-emergence of the LFL as a force within the game will continue apace under his presidency. "Next season we hope to have a Saturday and Sunday Development Section while we will continue to offer platform's for both men and women if the demand is there."

The availability of pitches and dressing rooms in the Phoenix Park to new clubs who might not have access to facilities makes the LFL a league with serious appeal with more than reasonable rates on offer to interested parties.

Interest has been strong for next season's Development League while for newly formed clubs looking to kick-off, a simple phone call to the LFL offices in Abbotstown will ensure you of the friendliest of welcomes. Phone league secretary Mark Breen on 086 8482026 or email league.lfl@gmail.com.

Photograph shows Tony O'Dowd (LFL President) and Vincent O'Brien (Best Menswear) along with Sacred Heart skipper James Redmond and his Ballybrack counterpart Evan Hanrahan.


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