The Football Association of Ireland can confirm that 24 teams will compete in the very first SSE Airtricity Under 15 National League.
The teams will participate in a shortened 2017 season – kicking off on the week ending August 20 – before a review process takes place ahead of the full season starting in March 2018.
The U15 League will be the entry level to elite football on the player pathway that already includes the SSE Airtricity Under 17 League, Under 19 League, First Division and Premier Division.
FAI High Performance Director Ruud Dokter welcomed the introduction of the U15 League, saying: “Having the Under 15 League in place further develops the pathway to elite football for the country’s most talented footballers.
“This now means that the very best Under 15 players throughout the country will now play against the highest quality opposition, thus enhancing their development as they progress to top level senior football.
“I would like to congratulate each of the schoolboy clubs and Leagues who successfully applied to forge partnerships with SSE Airtricity League clubs.
“I would also like to thank those who have been unsuccessful in their applications. The Working Group will continue to be available to work with these clubs on their future development plans.”
In addition to the 20 existing SSE Airtricity League clubs, the U15 League will be made up of three schoolboy Leagues – Kerry Schoolboys League, Mayo League, Monaghan/Cavan Partnership – and St Kevin’s Boys.
St Kevin’s Boys will compete in the shortened season after agreeing to work towards creating a partnership with Bohemian FC, which will allow St Kevin’s Boys to join existing partnerships into the National Leagues.
Eight clubs have already committed to partnerships with schoolboy clubs or Leagues, including Bohemians (NDSL), Bray Wanderers (St Joseph’s Boys), Drogheda United (Drogheda Schoolboys, Home Farm, NECSL Schoolboys), Dundalk (Malahide United), Galway United (Galway FA and Schoolboys), Shamrock Rovers (Corduff United, Kildare Schoolboys), St Patrick’s Athletic (Belvedere, Cherry Orchard, Crumlin United), and UCD (Mount Merrion).
The truncated season will consist of four groups of six teams and the fixture list will be released ahead of the official League launch next month.