Dundalk FC’s youth development programme continues to gather pace following the announcement of a link up with Malahide United.
The partnership will give players from the North Dublin club the chance to play with Dundalk’s U17, U19 and first team, creating a pathway from schoolboys football right through to the League of Ireland. Players will also be given the opportunity to avail of the scholarship programme currently in place between Dundalk FC and DkIT.
Other aspects of the collaboration will see both clubs exchange coaching ideas whilst players from Malahide United will be invited to come and watch Stephen Kenny’s team in action at Oriel Park.
The initiative was unveiled on Wednesday evening in front of a packed crowd in the plush surroundings of Malahide United’s Gannon Park. Malahide chairman Don Butler addressed the crowd and he said the link up was the ‘ideal fit’ for his club.
“I’d like to thank Martin Connolly at Dundalk and and Kevin Craven at Malahide for their hard work in all of this,” he said.
“This announcement follows on from seven months of meetings between both clubs and we both feel that this is the way forward.”
The FAI have encouraged schoolboys clubs to partner with League of Ireland clubs to provide the best possible players for the upcoming National U17 League which begins in August and Butler said that only strengthened the potential of the link.
“It’s no coincidence that this action is in line with the announcement from the FAI technical committee about the formation of the National U17 League.
“This partnership creates a definitive pathway for the development of young players from four years of age right up to the League of Ireland,” he said.
Dundalk chairman Ciaran Bond also spoke at the launch, saying that the link up was another important milestone in the club’s development.
“This fits very well in our programme of player development.
“We recently strengthened our link with the Dundalk Schoolboys League and, with their co-operation, are working with the league’s representative teams at all age levels which is something that has never happened before.
“The real focus of this link up with Malahide is for players over the age of 16. Dundalk FC will provide them with an opportunity to play in the club’s U17 and U19 teams and hopefully they will then go on and become part of our first team.”
At present, there are six former Malahide United players with Dundalk. Four of them, Ben Kelly, Alex Barry, Garrett Craven and Carlton Ubaezunonu were part of Stephen Kenny’s first team squad for the 5-0 win over UCC in Cork last Monday.
“This partnership is at an early stage but that shows the mutual benefits that it can have. Malahide supply players and we will supply the opportunity,” said Bond.
“We want this to be a lasting success and we want this project to be a role model for other schoolboys clubs and League of Ireland clubs; a template for the rest to follow.”
Bond’s comments were echoed by SSE Airtricity League Director, Fran Gavin who said that the FAI were fully behind the initiative.
“This is historic in Irish football, certainly in the domestic game. You have two giants at different levels coming together in what is a perfect marriage. Both clubs demand the best, expect the best and deliver the best,” remarked Gavin.
“The FAI had an executive meeting this morning and John Delaney, performance director Ruud Dokter and everybody at the FAI are really behind it and we look forward to it being extremely successful.”