Cork City’s Under-19s will look to make history on Wednesday night as they take on HJK Helsinki in the UEFA Youth League second leg match in Turner’s Cross.
The winners most likely to face Italian giants AS Roma in the next round of the competition with tie poised at 0-0 after the Rebels fine performance in the first leg.
It is the first time a League of Ireland club has competed at underage level in any European competition, marking another significant milestone in the development of our underage national leagues.
Stephen Bermingham’s side were in the midst of a 13-month unbeaten run until they lost 3-1 to Finn Harps in the quarter finals on the U19 National League the weekend before last.
They also secured an important 0-0 draw away to their opponents in the first leg of the tie.
Speaking ahead of the game, team captain Cian Coleman said they were expecting another tough contest but also have belief in their own ability.
“The manager had done his homework done so we just listened to what he wanted us to do,” Coleman explained.
“They actually train full time, so they’re professional players in that sense. We knew it would be hard, that they would be very good technically but we were also looking to get a good result ourselves.
“They definitely matched our expectations too. They kept the ball very well. We just sat back initially and grew into the game. We were happy with the draw away from home and to bring it back to Cork.”
The 19-year-old has been involved with the current U19s squad for a number of seasons now, showing consistency and leadership whether playing in midfielder or at centre half, and sees a positive future for the current crop at Cork City.
“This squad is very good. We won the League last year and the Cup this year. The defeat the weekend before last was hard to take but, looking ahead for the next two years, I can’t see many teams stopping this group. There are a lot of good, young players coming through.
“Everyone knows that it’s a hard step up from here to the senior team especially at this club because it’s one of the biggest clubs in the country. But once you work hard, hopefully you’ll get noticed and get a chance.
“The senior team is right up there at the highest level in the SSE Airtricity League. It’s top quality training to be involved in, it’s hard and challenging training every day but when you’re training with the best players in the country, it’s unreal and a complete privilege.”