JUST eight months after narrowly avoiding relegation Newcastle West have turned around their fortunes and have one foot in the knockout stages of the Limerick Live 95FM county senior football championship.
The magpies lead the way with the only 100 per cent record after three rounds of action.
Last October they travelled to Fitzgerald Park in Kilmallock to secure their senior status and were just about good enough to edge a 1-7 to 2-3 win over Claughaun.
Indeed while Newcastle West have gone one way, Claughaun have clearly gone the other way and are without a win after two rounds of the county intermediate football championship.
After an up-and-down last decade perhaps Newcastle West are finally setting themselves up for a serious title challenge. They did of course reach the county final in 2004 when Dromcollogher-Broadford needed a replay to win. But the very next year Newcastle West were relegated. They did come straight back up with an intermediate success in 2006 but are still looking for their first county title since 1992 and their third ever.
While they can see the quarter-finals in the distance, Newcastle West will be mindful that they could need at least one more point to ensure a place at the business end. Still to come for the men from the west Limerick town are another form side, Ballylanders and St Senans.
Backboned by members of their west U-21 winning sides of 2008 and 2009 and the county minor winning side of 2009, Newcastle West also have characters that should be ready to provide the necessary leadership; John Joe Sheehy, Stephen Nix, Sean Browne, Stephen Kelly and Mike McMahon. For a side looking to make a breakthrough confidence is everything and therefore it is key that Newcastle West continue on their winning ways. The Ballylanders game in July will now be their biggest test and could tell if the men in black and white are ready to make the step up to the next level.
Ballylanders are one of three (Fr Caseys and Adare) others sides that remain undefeated. Fr Caseys have five points from a possible six after their draw with Adare last weekend. Adare for their part, have two draws and one win, the same as Bally.
This week Ballylanders will look to continue their winning ways when they meet St Patrick’s in an All-County League play-off. The sides finished level on points on top of their group and must face each other to determine who plays Fr Caseys in the league final. When Bally and St Pats met in the group stages, victory went to the south Limerick men. Looking at both the championship and the league standings, its clear that Ballylanders and Fr Caseys are two of the form teams.
But how difficult it must be for club team managements and players to maintain any kind of form throughout the season. The senior championship started on April 28 and won’t end until October 16.
Ten weeks have lapsed since the opening game between Ballysteen and St Senans and all sides have played three rounds. By the end of the next 10-week period the group stages will be completed with the two remaining rounds of action.
But the problem is that during this, the height of the summer months, these are the only two games that the majority of teams will play, as the ACFL will be complete. It is an annual problem, but surely there must be a case for continuing some form of league competition side-by-side with the championship.
If the standard of the county senior team is slipping it is beholden on all club players and managements to help improve standards. Mathematically, every single club can still win the championship but only time will tell if that’s because no one is really lifting themselves to a higher plain. Perhaps Drom-Broadford did so last Sunday and it won’t be the first time that they laid the gauntlet down to others.