Wexford Youths relish European bow

Wexford Youths are making their European bow after William Doyle took them to a maiden Irish title last season by giving them the belief to match their ability.

Wexford Youths celebrate their first Irish title in April
Wexford Youths celebrate their first Irish title in April ©Sportsfile

It took four years for Wexford Youths to become an overnight success in the Republic of Ireland, but it is something they are now fully embracing.

As Wexford prepare to make their UEFA Women's Champions League debut on Tuesday in qualifying round Group 7 against Polish hosts Medyk Konin, Gintra Universitetas, and Cardiff Met, there has been time to reflect on just how far they have come. In 2011, they were among six teams to compete in Ireland's new Women's National League and while they fared well over the following three seasons, it was not until last term that they fulfilled their potential and came out on top as champions.

William Doyle
William Doyle©UEFA.com

A huge part of that was the positive approach instilled by manager William Doyle, who tweaked the style of play to a more aggressive and attacking format. It proved to be the difference as they beat UCD Waves to the title.

"The foundations were there for me to come in and see what we could achieve. I suppose we stretched the boundaries but the girls wanted to push themselves and we took it upon ourselves to keep improving," said Doyle.

"I think the potential was always there within the squad. It was really a case of harnessing that and getting the players to believe in what we were trying to do. When we got to the stage where everyone knew their role, it started to click."

Ruth Fahy
Ruth Fahy©UEFA.com

Doyle has since strengthened his squad with the addition of two quality midfielders in Ruth Fahy and Emma Hansberry. Fahy was part of the Galway United side who competed in the first qualifying round of what was then known as the UEFA Women's Cup in 2008/09, so her know-how could be vital within a squad that will largely be stepping into the unknown.

"In the past I may have feared the big games and the big finals, but now I am so excited about these games," said Fahy. "The thought of playing in the Champions League is massive. I was 19 when I last competed in the Champions League and I didn't think I would have to wait until I was 26 or 27 to play in it again. I'd love to play in it again."

There is an infectious optimism buzzing around the Wexford camp in anticipation of Tuesday's Group 7 bow against Gintra. Having worked so hard to reach this stage, they are determined to make the most of it.

Raheny were the second Irish team to progress last season
Raheny were the second Irish team to progress last season©Daniel Rus

History of Irish women's teams in Europe
2014/15: Raheny United – round of 32
2013/14: Raheny United – qualifying round
2012/13: Peamount United – qualifying round
2011/12: Peamount United – round of 32
2010/11: St Francis – qualifying round
2009/10: St Francis – qualifying round
2008/09: Galway United – first qualifying round
2007/08: Mayo – first qualifying round
2006/07: Dundalk – first qualifying round
2005/06: University College Dublin – first qualifying round
2004/05: University College Dublin – first qualifying round
2003/04: University College Dublin – qualifying round
2002/03: Shamrock Rovers – group stage