St. Francis braced for UEFA Champions League
St. Francis will embark on a second venture into the UEFA Women’s Champions League this week as they travel to Croatia to play against opposition from Portugal, Russia and Croatia.
Three games in a week await the 2009 FAI Women’s Senior Cup champions, with the Portuguese champions, 1o Dezembro, first up for the Baldonnell club on Thursday evening. The now familiar faces of FC Rossiyanka will be the opponents on Saturday afternoon, with the hosts entertaining the Irish side in the last round of fixtures.
This is one of seven groups, all taking place at the same time, dotted around the continent in which the group winners and best runners up will progress to the last 32 and the knock out stages.
Having learnt from the experience of last season, when three defeats were suffered at the hands on FC Rossiyanka, Maccabi Holan (ISR) & Apollon Limassol (CPR), St Francis will be looking to improve on their performance.
St. Francis has added a number of players to the squad in the last twelve months, with Kelly Jones and Cheryl Foster signing on loan from Liverpool FC. Irish senior international Sonya Hughes joins the club as does Aoife Herbert from Killala, a member of the Mayo League cup winning side, who played at this level with Mayo in 2007.
Those new signings added to the 2009 treble winning side (FAI Senior Cup, DWSL Premier Division & DWSL Premier Cup) which included a host of players with international experience.
Head Coach Breifne Earley is confident of an improved performance from the Saints
He said: "We know all about the challenge that lies ahead of us, we have done our homework since I was appointed over the last month or so, and we have collected three big wins in our league games during that time.
"Its unfortunate that there is no National League yet, and that we haven’t been tested more in the build-up, although a friendly against a strong under 16 boys side last week has given us a better picture of where we currently are. We know we can compete with the Portuguese and the Croatians, and the Russian side will ask some serious questions of our girls, but we believe that we have the players to create a few problems for them."
St. Francis captain, Sandra Mulhall, shares the enthusiasm by stating: "We’ve learned from the experience of last year, and the mood in the camp is good ahead of the games. We are confident that we can give a positive reflection of the club, and Irish women’s football."