Continental Tyres Women’s National League Champions Shelbourne Ladies head to Belfast next week for their UEFA Women’s Champions League qualifying round.
Shelbourne Ladies were comprehensive winners of the Women’s National League last season and earned themselves a spot in the UEFA Women’s Champions League qualifying round.
The Dublin club will face Polish side Medyk Konin on Tuesday, August 22nd at 2pm, Finnish side PK-35 Vantaa on Friday, August 25th at 7.30pm and Northern Irish Champions Linfield Ladies on Monday, August 28th at 4pm.
Shels need to either win the group or be the runner-up with the best record against the teams first and third in their section to proceed to the round of 32.
Despite the strength of the opposition, Shelbourne Ladies manager Mark Leavy is confident his side can get through the qualifying round.
Leavy said: “We’re definitely going into the Champions League full of confidence. We’ve picked up a really good run of form in recent weeks which is well-timed.
“We’ve been able to close the gap at the top of the Women’s National League so it means we can relax a little and concentrate fully on the challenge ahead.
“We know we’re going to be playing some good sides, we’ve been able to watch them and it will be a tough challenge for us but this group have plenty of talent and I’m confident in them.”
Shelbourne have several Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team young stars like Leanne Kiernan, Alex Kavanagh and Roma McLaughlin.
Even the likes of Niamh Prior, Tiegan Ruddy, Jamie Finn, Alannah McEvoy and Isibeal Atkinson star for the Republic of Ireland at under-age level, and McLaughlin believes the young talent can shine through.
McLaughlin commented: “We’re all absolutely buzzing! It’s a huge moment in our careers to be playing Champions League football and we can’t wait for the challenge.
“We’ve got a lot of young talent in the squad but I think, as you’ve seen in the league lately, we’re really starting to come together and that is a real positive for us.
“We’ve been able to watch a few of the games on YouTube and we know it’s going to be tough but seeing our form lately, I know we can be confident in our ability to win the games.
“I’ve really enjoyed the season so far and getting to play alongside the likes of Alex (Kavanagh) and Leanne (Kiernan) every week is a real positive for our development.”
Shels have been handed a huge boost ahead of the UEFA Women’s Champions League campaign as Gloria Douglas has returned to the club for the European quest.
The 25-year old striker helped Shels to a memorable double last season having previously played for the University of Virginia and she was recently with Washington Spirit Reserves. She admitted the temptation to come back to Dublin for the Champions League was too much.
Douglas said: “It’s great to be back among friends and what I’d consider family in many ways. I really enjoyed my time here last season, to win the league and the cup at the Aviva Stadium was a great moment.
“When the opportunity to come back here for the Champions League came up, it was too good to turn down and I’m really looking forward to it.
“You want to test yourself against the very best and the Champions League is one of the best competitions in the world. The team look really strong and I’m sure we can get through to the next round.”