Bohs and Kevin's united after seeing light on partnership
The new partnership between Bohemians and St Kevin's Boys has been described as a consequence of both clubs 'seeing the light.'
When the FAI introduced the new national underage leagues, the exclusion of the leading schoolboy nurseries became a serious bone of contention.
And St Kevin's Boys - the club that produced Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick - felt particularly aggrieved by the change in landscape. They explored applying for League of Ireland First Division membership so they could keep hold of their best teenagers.
The FAI did make an exception by allowing St Kevin's to compete in the truncated launch year of the national U-15 league, a move which angered other schoolboy clubs in the Dublin area that had followed Abbotstown orders to enter partnerships.
But in November it was announced that Kevin's had eventually struck a deal with their northside neighbours Bohemians.
It will mean that a Bohemians/St Kevin's side will compete in the U-15 and forthcoming U-13 league with a jersey bearing the crest of both clubs. At U-17 and U-19 level it will be Bohs only, but they will benefit from the use of St Kevin's facilities and the link-up between the clubs will result in coaches working together.
Indeed, St Kevin's head of youth development Alan Caffrey said that Bohemians manager Keith Long's involvement in negotiations was significant.
"It's been a long time getting to this situation," said Caffrey, a former Bohs coach. "We first spoke to Bohemians probably about two years ago. We were fighting our own corner and Bohemians were doing their thing and then eventually we all sat around the table.
"I suppose the big turning point was Keith got involved, and Ian Morris (Bohs player & youth development officer) and Dave Henderson (head of recruitment). We sat down from a football perspective and had a long chat about how it would work.
"We saw it would benefit both clubs from a football perspective. Then it was about the two boards coming together and doing their agreement and everybody has seen the light. It's great to finally get it done, especially with Bohs, who was always our first choice."
Caffrey feels that the pathway to senior football will appeal to younger players, and says that he does welcome the FAI's move to a national underage league.
"We were never against the changes the FAI were making," he said. "We just wanted to be a part of the process. It's important that everybody buys into it and we're happy that nobody has lost any identity."
He added: "The investment isn't as massive as what it needs to be, but at least we're at a starting point."
Long - who is still on the hunt for a striker ahead of Friday week's sold-out opener with Shamrock Rovers - is on the same page.
"St Kevin's have always produced players of a high standard and quality so it made sense for us," he said. "I think it makes us stronger as a club."
Who is your sportstar of the year?
Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.
Prizes include, a trip to Old Trafford to watch Man United take on Liverpool in the Premier League, tickets to Ireland's home games in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.