The local elite

Members of the Montco Select soccer squad will travel to Ireland this summer to compete in the prestigious weeklong Emerald Cup.

  • Northeast residents comprise a large portion of the Montco Select 36-player roster that will depart for Limerick, Ireland, on July 27.

  • Lead trainer Dario Toban runs drills during a recent practice.

  • St. Hubert’s Dominique Calio, 15, runs drills during a recent practice. Northeast residents comprise a large portion of the Montco Select 36-player roster that will depart for Limerick, Ireland, on July 27. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTOS

Hailed as the world’s greatest sport­ing event, the quad­ren­ni­al World Cup of men’s soc­cer will be over by the time Ju­ly 27 rolls along. But for a group of girls soc­cer play­ers from the North­east, the in­ter­na­tion­al ad­ven­ture will be just start­ing.

Mem­bers of Montco Se­lect will de­part that day for Lim­er­ick, Ire­land, to com­pete against some of the best age-group play­ers from the Re­pub­lic and Bri­tain in the weeklong Em­er­ald Cup. Al­though their or­gan­iz­a­tion is based in Mont­gomery County, North­east res­id­ents will com­prise a large por­tion of the 36-play­er roster, ac­cord­ing to head coach Max Man­stein.

Montco Se­lect will field a 17 and un­der (U17) side, as well as a 14 and un­der (U14) side. Sev­er­al loc­al high schools will be rep­res­en­ted on the squads, such as St. Hubert, Arch­bish­op Ry­an and Frank­lin Towne Charter, as will area club pro­grams in­clud­ing Fox Chase, Park­wood, Light­house and Phil­adelphia S.C.

“We star­ted three years ago as a se­lect team for the area, then we made con­tact with the Uni­versity of Lim­er­ick, who offered us the op­por­tun­ity to play in their tour­na­ment. We thought it was a great idea to pro­mote girls soc­cer in gen­er­al in the U.S.,” Man­stein said. “Many girls have not had the op­por­tun­ity to play over­seas and play against in­ter­na­tion­al play­ers.”

This is not to say that the loc­al girls aren’t as cap­able as any they will en­counter across the At­lantic. The two Montco Se­lect sides are es­sen­tially all-star teams, with play­ers re­tain­ing mem­ber­ship in their neigh­bor­hood clubs. Coaches chose the squads through a com­pet­it­ive try­out pro­cess. They will train to­geth­er throughout the spring and early sum­mer and are sched­uled to com­pete in sev­er­al warm-up tour­na­ments in east­ern Pennsylvania and south­ern New Jer­sey.

In this rare melt­ing pot of area soc­cer tal­ent, girls like Mad­die Feeney, 14, of La­fay­ette Hill and St. Philip Neri Cath­ol­ic School, will rub el­bows with Gi­anna Azcona, 14, of Jen­k­in­town and Abing­ton Ju­ni­or High, along with Domi­n­ique Calio, 15, of the North­east and St. Hubert High.

“They get to play with girls from all dif­fer­ent areas and back­grounds,” Man­stein said.

About 50 par­ents are ex­pec­ted to chap­er­one the trip. Most fam­il­ies will be able to foot the bill on their own, but oth­ers will need some help, which is why the club is act­ively seek­ing spon­sors.

“There are a lot of girls who do not come from the best fin­an­cial situ­ations. So we’re look­ing for any cor­por­ate spon­sors or in­di­vidu­al spon­sors that can help these girls take ad­vant­age of an op­por­tun­ity that may be once in a life­time,” Man­stein said.

For oth­ers, the trip could be the start of something much, much great­er. Feeney is one of sev­er­al cur­rent Montco play­ers who made the same trip last year. Her U13 side placed second, los­ing the cham­pi­on­ship game, 2-1, in stop­page time (that’s the time a ref­er­ee adds to the end of a soc­cer game to ac­count for earli­er stop­pages in live play).

“It was my first time in an­oth­er coun­try. The teams were com­pet­it­ive, so it was a good tour­na­ment,” Feeney said. “We held our own and got un­lucky in the cham­pi­on­ship game.”

“Our girls were a little more phys­ic­ally ag­gress­ive, fit and tech­nic­ally bet­ter, but I think the oth­er teams were more or­gan­ized on the field,” Man­stein said. “It was a little dif­fer­ent than what [we’re] used to see­ing. They kept their shape very well.”

The mem­or­able ex­per­i­ences wer­en’t lim­ited to the com­pet­i­tion.

“We [trained] with some Itali­an boys and they are really good and really fast, so it helped us get bet­ter,” Feeney said.

The Montco U13s had such a good ex­per­i­ence last year that or­gan­izers have fa­cil­it­ated sim­il­ar groups from the New York and Bo­ston areas, who will travel with the Philly-area squads. Next year, Montco Se­lect is plan­ning to enter sev­er­al boys teams. Try­outs for the 2015 trip will be held this May 10 at Abing­ton Friends School.

This year’s girls entries are sched­uled to play four games each, with many of Ire­land’s top col­legi­ate coaches mon­it­or­ing the ac­tion. In that na­tion, stu­dents start col­lege at roughly age 16, two years young­er than in the United States.

“They have pro­fes­sion­al train­ers over there and we have had girls offered col­lege schol­ar­ships over there,” Man­stein said. Azcona hopes to be one of them.

“I hope oth­er teams no­tice me more than they do now,” she said. “I want to work and get bet­ter and train with bet­ter play­ers.”

Calio dreams of get­ting paid to play someday.

“I’ve al­ways said that when I grow up I want to go pro,” she said. “So trav­el­ing to an­oth­er coun­try, hope­fully it’s something I’ll get used to. I want to play my sport all over the world.” ••

For in­form­a­tion about spon­sor­ship and par­ti­cip­a­tion in the Montco Se­lect pro­gram, send email to mont­cose­

Girls soc­cer camps

In con­junc­tion with their pre­par­a­tions for the 2014 Em­er­ald Cup, Montco Se­lect has partnered with sev­er­al Ir­ish pro­fes­sion­al wo­men’s play­ers and na­tion­al team mem­bers to of­fer three week-long camps this sum­mer.

The camps will be held at St. Hil­ary of Poit­i­ers School in Ry­dal start­ing Ju­ly 7, Falls Soc­cer Club start­ing Ju­ly 14 and Tor­res­dale Boys Club start­ing Ju­ly 21. Camps run five hours per day for five con­sec­ut­ive days. Girls from U10 to U16 age groups are eli­gible. The cost is $200 per play­er and in­cludes a camp T-shirt and soc­cer ball.

The all-wo­men coach­ing staff in­cludes Stephanie Roche, Clare Kin­sella, Yvonne Tracy, Emma Dono­hue and Claire Young. Vis­it ir­ish­soc­cer­ for in­form­a­tion.

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