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Ex-NI ace Sara to drive forward women's finals

By Stuart McKinley

The Irish Football Association have handed the lead role for next summer's Uefa Women's Under-19 Championships over to a former international captain.

Sara Booth has been chosen as the Tournament Director for the European finals, which will be held in Northern Ireland from August 8 to 20 next year.

A prominent player in the women's domestic league in Northern Ireland for many years, Sara was also one of those involved in reviving the international team in the early 2000s after years of inactivity.

She was a regular in the Northern Ireland team during a number of qualifying campaigns and captained the side on many occasions.

As well as her playing background, Sara has been employed by the IFA for over a decade as Women's Domestic Football Manager, overseeing a major increase in participation numbers in the women's game as well as playing a part in the growth at grassroots level.

The Women's Under-19 Championships will be the first female championship finals to be held in Northern Ireland, although the male Under-19 European Championship were played here during the IFA's 125th anniversary year in 2005.

Hugo Lloris, Younes Kaboul, Yohann Cabaye, Abou Diaby and Yoann Gourcuff were all part of the France team who won that tournament, beating England 3-1 in the final.

There will be a total of 15 matches played in the women's tournament, with decisions still to be made over the venues.

Five grounds were used in 2005 - Windsor Park, The Oval, Mourneview Park, Ballymena Showgrounds and Newry Showgrounds - but others are expected to be used this time thanks to the development of facilities in the Irish League.

The first qualifying draw has already been made ahead of the first matches this autumn when 44 teams will fight it out for 21 places in the Elite phase.

They will be joined by England, France and Germany next spring when they will try to claim one of seven places alongside Northern Ireland in the finals.

A number of grassroots events are planned in the run up to the finals, which also form part of the IFA's Girls' and Women's Football Plan which was launched in April 2014.

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