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Shelbourne will begin the defence of their So Hotels Women's National Under-17 League title this weekend as the first full season of the competition gets underway.

The 2019 season is set to begin this weekend as the competition enters it's first full season after a successful truncated campaign in 2018.

Shelbourne were the inaugural winners of the competition after a thrilling final victory over Galway Women's and Head Coach Laura Heffernan says the first season was a learning curve.

"Personally, it was a new challenge and one I definitely learned from as it is a different type of management from managing a senior team," said Head Coach Laura Heffernan.

"To try and get the team to step up to a national league level as opposed to a development team, it's a big step but they stepped up brilliantly."

Not only did Shelbourne lift the title but the players in the Under-17 side received plenty of international recognition with Emily Whelan and Rebecca Cooke both involved with the Women's National Team this year.

Heffernan praised the hard work Cooke and Whelan put in during the year, and says that they've progressed a number of players up to the Shelbourne senior team this season.

"Rebecca (Cooke) was fantastic last year, she hadn't really been in and around the under-age international set-ups at a young age, but she really stepped up last year," she added.

"She was challenged during the season, we asked her to do things and she got her head down and did them. She's been rewarded for that along with the likes of Emily Whelan.

"We've progressed a couple of players up to the senior team now which is great for them to step up to the level so quickly.

"We've got a few players who'll dual sign with both the senior and the Under-17s side so we'll have to manage that over the course of the season. There isn't too many clashes in terms of fixtures which is great.

"If they don't play for the seniors on a Saturday, then they'll be available to play for us on the Sunday so that's important to make sure these players are getting the right game-time."

The league is set to welcome a new entrant this season with Bohemians introduced to the league and they will compete in Group 2 in their inaugural campaign. Heffernan hopes to see more teams enter the league structure in the future.

"It's great to welcome more teams in the league, the more teams who are playing in the league, the better," she continued.

"Hopefully, that will filter through to the senior league in a couple of years as well when the senior league expands and we see more competition across the country. If we've got more teams then we've got more players playing at the top level which can only be a good thing."

Due to international call-ups to the Republic of Ireland Women's Under-16 squad, three fixtures have been postponed in the So Hotels Women's National Under-17 League. Athlone Town v Peamount United, Sligo Rovers v Galway Women's and Wexford Youths v Bohemians have all been postponed and will now take place on Saturday, May 4.

So Hotels Women's National Under-17 League - Fixtures

Group One

06/04 - Shelbourne v Donegal League, 4pm, AUL Complex

Group Two

07/04 - DLR Waves v Limerick, 3pm, Bishopstown Stadium
07/04 - Cork City v Greystones, 2pm, Marley Park

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