2018 SSE Airtricity League launched
Last season proved to be another memorable season as Cork City claimed an historic double by lifting the SSE Airtricity League title and the FAI Cup. Dundalk, who finished second in the league and were beaten on penalties in the FAI Cup Final at the Aviva Stadium, claimed the EA SPORTS Cup after they beat Shamrock Rovers in the final at Tallaght Stadium.
Next season will see the return of Waterford to the top flight after they lifted the SSE Airtricity League First Division title. The First Division is set to hot up this season with the return of the play-offs to add even more competition for promotion to the first tier.
It is also set to be another crucial year for underage development as the SSE Airtricity National U15 League goes into it's first full season in 2018. Athlone Town won the 2017 title in the inaugural, shortened season, after a 2-1 win over St. Patrick's Athletic in the final. Bohemians will be competing in the UEFA Youth League next season after they beat St. Patrick's Athletic in the U19 Final and become the third Irish team to compete in Europe's elite youth competition.
The 2018 season promises to be just as entertaining and everyone is looking forward to the action kicking off on Friday, February 16 with the Dublin Derby between Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers live on RTE2.
Fran Gavin, FAI Director of Competitions, believes the future is hugely encouraging for the SSE Airtricity League and believes 2018 will see the league go from strength to strength.
"As the President's Cup game on Sunday showed, this season is set to be even more competitive than the last and I personally can't wait for the season to start on Friday," said Gavin.
"2018 sees the return of the play-off system which means more clubs in the First Division could achieve promotion and that should make for a highly-competitive division. We'll also see the first full season in the National U15 League following from it's huge success last year with over 1,200 people attending the final in Athlone.
"It's important the league continues to work towards youth development and that's why we've announced the start of a Youth Development Fund. The fund will add €250,000 to the UEFA Solidarity Funding of €825,062, bringing the total funding for youth development to €1.15 million at a minimum and with the introduction of a National U13 League next season, the future is exciting."
"We're delighted to have the continued support of our key sponsors, SSE Airtricity, Irish Daily Mail and EA SPORTS. Clubs are beginning to utilise their strategic plans and we're seeing more longer-term contracts across the league which is fantastic. Attendances continued to grow last season and we're positive we will continue to get stronger in 2018."
Leanne Sheill, SSE Airtricity Marketing Manager – Sponsorship & Loyalty said: “As title sponsor to the SSE Airtricity League we’ve been powering Irish Football for 9 years now, and we’re also delighted to continue as the Official Energy Partner to the FAI and to its international teams.
"As a business, we’re Ireland's largest provider of renewable energy. Like Irish football, we’re deeply engrained across Irish communities and so it’s natural that we should grow our partnership with Irish football and with clubs and fans all across the country.”