BY GER McCARTHY
TWO former SuperValu West Cork Schoolboys League players are set to line out against Italian club AS Roma in the first leg of their UEFA Youths League tie on Wednesday night in Turner's Cross, at 7pm.
WCSL graduates Denzil Fernandes and Ronan Hurley were part of the Cork City U19 squad that overcame HJK of Finland over two legs and in front of over 1,500 supporters at Turner’s Cross last week. Aaron Drinan’s converted penalty secured a 1-0 aggregate victory to set up a mouth-watering second round-clash with Roma.
Fernandes, who came up through the ranks with Drinagh Rangers, and Hurley, who previously lined out for Bunratty United, are looking forward to a glamour two-legged tie, including a trip to the Eternal City in the return leg.
Following in the footsteps of current City striker Connor Ellis, U19 manager Stephen Bermingham is hopeful that Fernandes and Hurley will continue their progression ahead of the club’s high-profile European ties.
‘The West Cork lads have done exceptionally well for us this past year,’ the manager said.
‘Denzil has been with the U19 squad for two seasons and a real plus for us playing out on the wing during the recent campaign. Ronan Hurley recently joined the squad as he’s still part of our U17 setup but played very well in one of our recent league games against Shamrock Rovers.
‘We are delighted with the two lads’ development and they are following in the footsteps of another West Cork graduate in Conor Ellis. If they keep working hard then Denzil and Ronan have every chance of progressing up through the Cork City ranks.
The WCSL continues to develop quality young footballers through its successful Emerging Talent Programme, something Bermingham believes all members of the West Cork football community should be proud of.
‘I think there is a very strong pathway for young West Cork players through the region’s excellent ETP and into Cork City’s junior ranks,’ Bermingham noted.
‘Some of the West Cork ETP players I’ve seen have the ability to emulate Denzil and Ronan’s path. They will have to match their commitment and the amount of travelling the two lads put in which underlines how much they want to be a success with City.’
Excitement is building ahead of Cork City’s the two-legged tie with Roma. Hopes are high of a big attendance at Turner’s Cross that might yet inspire City’s U19 squad to an upset victory.
‘There’s no doubt that we face a massive task against an AS Roma side that defeated Juventus in their U19 league decider,’ Bermingham said.
‘We are under no illusions that we are going up against an elite, top-class European club. Looking at the bigger picture, I’ve no doubt that the great work being done throughout all of Cork’s schoolboys leagues will keep a steady flow of talent coming through Cork City’s doors in the coming years.
‘As long as the best young players in our county aspire to play for Cork City then I’m certain the games with Roma will the first of many European adventures.’