CORK CITY will head into the new Airtricity U19 League season this weekend dreaming of emulating Usain Bolt and go for a ‘double-double’.
The Rebel Army won the inaugural league Elite Division title last year and topped it off by claiming the Airtricity U19 Cup too by beating Dundalk in the final.
Stuart Ashton has many of the same City players available to him this year and knows they will be the side all teams will be looking to knock off their perch in the coming season.
“It’s obviously going to be extremely difficult to top our achievements from last season when we won the league and the cup,” said Ashton, whose side meet Drogheda United at Bishopstown in their opening game on Sunday.
“We went into last season looking to win both competitions if possible so to achieve that was fantastic but it will be doubly hard to repeat it.
“Every match we’ll play the opposition will be looking to claim the scalp of the champions so it’s going to be like a cup final every week.”
Ashton will be able to call upon the services of Jason Forde, Rob Lehane, John Kavanagh, Darren Murphy and David Browne who all featured in last year’s squad.
The City boss has been pleased to see the likes of Stephen Kenny, Stephen Carroll, Danny Morrissey, Eoghan Murphy and Andy O’Connell into Tommy Dunne’s first team squad from the side that won the double earlier this year.
“It is all about producing players to compete for a first team place so you have to be pleased to see the guys moving up,” he added.
“I think the U19 league has been a great addition and it was a very tight competition last year. There were very few one sided games so anybody could beat you on their game.”
Meanwhile, Finn Harps boss Shaun McGowan is looking forward to the new season as his side prepares for life in the top flight following their promotion from the Northern Section.
“It’s going to be a different test as we were used to playing the same small number of sides last year,” said McGowan, whose side hosts Bray Wanderers in their opening game in the Elite Division on Sunday.
“We have 12 of the squad from last year still eligible so we are in reasonable shape, although obviously we’re playing in a higher division.
“The Dublin sides will be strong again this year and Cork City are the champions so will be the team to beat. But it’s all about performing at this level and proving yourself capable of pushing on to first team football.”
Thursday, August 16
Bohemians v St Patrick Athletic, Dalymount Park (7.00pm).
Saturday, August 18
Shelbourne v Waterford United, Tolka Park (2.00pm);
Salthill Devon v Cobh Ramblers, Drom (2.00pm).
Sunday, August 20
UCD v Shamrock Rovers, UCD Bowl (12.00pm);
Cork City v Drogheda United, Bishopstown (2.00pm);
Finn Harps v Bray Wanderers, Finn Park (3.00pm).