Women's National League launchedby Frankie Lally
Thursday saw a historic day for women's football in Ireland as Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Michael Ring, launched the inaugural Bus Éireann Women's National League at the Aviva Stadium.
The league, in its pilot season, will have six teams participating in it and it will kick-off on Sunday November 13th.
The teams invited to play in the league are Castlebar Celtic FC, Raheny United, Shamrock Rovers, Wexford Youths Women's AFC, Cork Women's FC and this season's UEFA Women's Champions League participants, Peamount United.
Ireland has now become the largest country in Europe to launch a national women's football league.
This was largely down to UEFA women's football development plan, which Ireland is a part of. UEFA have now put a total of €22million into the plan, which has also been launched in Italy, Portugal and Slovakia.
Speaking at the launch on Thursday Niamh Donohue, Chairperson of the Women's Football Association of Ireland said: “It is truly a historic day. This funding has allowed us to realise our dream.
“For awhile now we have punched above our weight on the world stage, which has been shown by our international teams,” she added.
Participation in women's football is at an all-time high in Ireland. There are around 22,000 female players in Ireland at the moment and 15,000 of those are under the age of nine. Participation in the game has also doubled in the last five years.
Captains from five of the six National League teams in the Aviva Stadium - Photo: Ian Anderson / Extratime.ie
Fran Gavin, the league's director, says the league will be treated with just as much importance as the men's league in Ireland.
He said: “Today's launch mark a new era for women's football in Ireland. For the first time, the Bus Éireann Women's National League will bring together our best players, coaches and officials to a
“This league will be given the same focus and priority as the Airtricity League and we will apply the same principles of competition, integrity and fairness across the board to every club involved.”
Also speaking at Thursday's launch was former German international Steffi Jones, who is now UEFA's Women's Football Development programme Ambassador. She said the girls playing in the league will now act as role models for other young women who play the game in Ireland.
Jones said: “These girls are now role models who will make young girls here play football. Starting a national league is an essential step for women's football development in Ireland.
“Playing in club competitions is the gateway to A-team football and ensures a stable future for women's football, as well as an incentive for girls around the country,” she concluded.