Wexford Youths 'happy with the draw' as they face Champions League reunion with Gintras in Lithuania

Sat, Jun 22 2019

Youths players convene following a Women's National League victory over Cork City in March. Credit: Steve Alfred (ETPhotos)

Wexford Youths will face familiar opponents in the form of group hosts Gintras Universitetas as they bid to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time.

Tom Elmes’ side have been drawn alongside the Lithuanian champions, Albanian side Vllaznia and Maltese outfit Birkirkara for the games, which will take place from August 7th to 13th.

Elmes recently spoke to extratime.ie about the improvements his side have made as a result of last year's campaign, when they faced Dutch giants Ajax and Thor/KA of Iceland.in Belfast.

Gintras, as top seeds, will justifiably be favourites to progress on home soil but Youths can boast one impressive group stage victory over the Šiauliai side in recent memory.

The group as a whole, involving the second lowest-ranked of the second seeds in Vllaznia, is a more manageable draw on paper than last year’s group.

While Bikrikara were the highest-ranked of the fourth seeds, Youths themselves missed out on a second seed birth themselves by a mere 0.345 of a ranking point.

Youths were drawn alongside Gintras in the qualifying group in both 2015-16 and 2016-17, the second of which saw Wexford host the group on home soil.

Gintras were the opposition for Wexford’s first-ever European game in 2015 in Kieczew, Poland, a historic occasion marked with a 1-0 win thanks to defender Jess Gleeson’s second-half strike.

A 5-1 victory over Cardiff Met University – Carol Breen scoring four – saw Youths capped off a strong campaign for Youths, but a 6-0 defeat to hosts Medyk Konin saw Will Doyle’s side finish second.

12 months later, Wexford hosted a group containing Gintras, Kazakh champions BIIK-Kazygurt and Romanian side ARF Criuleni.

A disappointing campaign saw Youths pick up just a point, however, as they fell to a controversial 2-1 defeat to Gintras following Lauren Dwyer’s red card 20 minutes from time.

“We had been looking at the various options and when you take into account flight times, venues, etc., we are happy with the draw we got,” Elmes told the league’s website.

“We have played Gintra, the Lithuanian side before, so we have some idea of what to expect there, and it should be easy to access information and videos of them.

“As far as the Albanian team Vllaznia are concerned, we wouldn’t know too much about them, but we will look into them straight away.

“And with the Maltese side, Birkirkara, they would be one of the better fourth-seeded teams. We’ll get going straight away on getting our homework done on them all.”

Meanwhile, Irish Premiership champions Linfield have been handed a tough draw alongside last year's quarter-finalists, LSK Kvinner of Norway, Belgian hosts Anderlecht and PAOK of Greece.