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msl set for a 'major' link

THE Midlands Schoolboys/ Girls League could soon by forming a partnership with a major club in Britain.

League secretary Karl Bond confirmed after the league's awards ceremony in Tullamore on Monday that a cross-channel link-up is on the cards.

Bond could not go into any detail about the plan. "We could be in talks with a big club to come on board with us, who shall remain anonymous at this stage," he said.

The purpose of the partnership would be to "bring in the expertise they have, and let us see what's going on elsewhere", said Bond.

Any link which does emerge could be modelled on a partnership the MSL's neighbours, the Kildare District Underage League, has developed with Nottingham Forest.

A relationship with a professional club would fit in with the MSL's overall coaching strategy and a coaching sub-committee is being set up.

The last couple of seasons has seen the league's representative sides achieve considerable success, notably the Under 13s, who reached the Inter-League semi-final this season after coming through the Leinster section. They won the national title at Under 12 level last year.

This season, they qualified for the SFAI Inter-League semi-final against the Galway Under 13s at Terryland Park.

The match was 1-1 after extra-time. Ciaran Burns scored the goal for the Midlands, but they were knocked out on penalties.

"They were just unlucky in Galway. It was 5-4 on penalties," said Bond. "They played their hearts out. In my estimation, no matter what anybody else thinks, we had the better game down there."

The Under 13s were honoured at the MSL awards ceremoney, where Banagher's Francis Healy was the winner of the Contribution to Football Award.

Bond added Healy had been chosen because of his lifelong dedication to football, firstly in Ferbane, and more recently with Banagher, where he is involved with a number of teams.

Portlaoise was named as Club of the Year and Mountmellick won the Club Merit award.

Bond said the merit award is based on how a club conducts itself 'and how helpful they are to the league, and Mountmellick have been very helpful to the league'.

The league secretary also indicated that cup, shield and plate competitions involving teams from the Midlands Schoolboys League and other leagues could well be expanded.

This season teams from four other leagues joined with the MSL for the regional competitions – Kildare, Carlow, Kilkenny and North Tipperary.

"We're hoping to expand it again for next season," said Bond, stating that the North Dublin Schoolboys League were 'talking about coming in'.

"So hopefully they will. There's a possibility that Wicklow were looking to get in as well and there is talk of some other leagues also," said the secretary.

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