Rathkeale, champions of the 2016/17 season
The 2017-18 season begins on Sunday, with a full complement of matches in all four divisions.
The Premier Division title race went down to the last day in each of the last two seasons and it remains to be seen if it will be as exciting this season.
Champions Rathkeale didn’t slip up on the final day last season as pursuers Broadford United were hoping. After that, there were three other tiers. Abbeyfeale United, Champions for the previous two seasons, finished joint third with Newcastle West Rovers. Next, a good distance behind, were a gang of four, namely Athea United, Carrig Celtic, Glin Rovers and Ballingarry. The final tier was comprised of the two relegated teams, Newcastle West and Killeaney, who have now been replaced by Granagh United and Shannonside FC.
There has been a fair degree of player movement over the summer and that will have an impact on the final placings this season. Rathkeale have been significantly strengthened in the centre of midfield with the return of Mikey Lyons from Regional United.
Shane Doherty, a former youths player with Ballingarry, has also signed from Regional, and he will be another positive addition. On the minus side, Pa Ahern has gone to Pike Rovers and his vibrancy up front will not be easily replaced.
Rathkeale will be managed by Seamus Giltenane and Alan Doyle. They had six friendlies against city sides over the summer and suffered only one defeat, a 2-1 loss to Pike Rovers.
Ger Kennedy will be a new addition to the Broadford management team this season, joining Jim Neenan and Tom Kelly. Ray Lynch has gone to Regional United as player-manager and he will be a huge loss, especially in the big games. Paul Madigan has returned to the fold and he is a proven goalscorer. Paul Fitzmaurice, Jason Sheehan and Adam Sheehan are three other signings of note. Key players include captain Micheal Brosnan and vice-captain Joe McAuliffe.
There will be significant changes to the Abbeyfeale United starting line-up this season. The long-serving Denis Fitzgerald has retired, skipper Mike Sheehan is taking up a teaching post in the Middle East, Ryan Carroll will be based in Cork and Barry Sheehy is dropping down to the B-team for the moment anyway. Manager John Kelliher will be seeking to win the title for the third time in four seasons and his key players will be Chris Smith, who played for the Republic of Ireland selection in the Regions Cup Final in Istanbul in July, along with the versatile Cormac Roche and the evergreen Joe Kelliher.
There will be a lot of interest in Ballingarry this season. Gary Shanahan has returned as manager and will be assisted by Mike Aherne and Frank Browne. Aherne, of 95fm fame, finished last season helping Ballingarry to get out of their relegation difficulties by using his vast experience at centre-half, having spent the earlier part of the season as manager of Carew Park. They have made several signings, the most interesting being the capture of Tony Quaid from Newcastle West. A few players have come from the District League, including Paul Finucane from Fairview Rangers and Aidan Morrissey from Croom. Pa Healy is back from the UK but that great club servant, Colm Kiely, has retired.
Ballingarry’s near neighbours, Granagh United, return to the top flight after a twelve-year absence, having won promotion as Champions in each of the last two seasons. Manager Kevin Fitzgibbon and his assistant Denis Noonan hope to keep the bulk of that successful squad, though long-term injuries Mark Tierney, Paul O’Brien and Paudie Lynch will all miss the start of the season.
Marty Madden had a very good season for Newcastle West Rovers last season so his departure to Regional United will be a big loss. On the plus side, Donncha Woods is coming from Newcastle West AFC and managers Thomas St. John and Paudie Fitzgerald are hoping to entice AJ O’Connor back from Fairview Rangers.
Tomas Lane, having served his apprenticeship as assistant manager to Pat Duggan with last season’s Askeaton Youths side that won the Cup double, is stepping up to manage Shannonside FC. Lane and his assistant, Mike Sillery, have signed Brandon Murphy, who was a very exciting player for Askeaton Youths over the last two seasons.
Mike McLoughlin and his assistants, Shane Culhane and Gavin Sheehan, guided Glin Rovers to a narrow Desmond Cup Final defeat against Broadford United last season and they are in charge again this season. Glin will be without three key players who are heading overseas on a tour of duty with the army, namely, Paul Sheehan, Tommy Culhane and Tadgh Culhane. Another big loss will be goalkeeper Sean Lyons, who has retired. However, Jamie Fitzgerald, captain of the GB Rovers team that won the Youths League last season, is a good signing.
For Athea United, Tom O’Connor has taken over from John Cotter. Padraig Horgan returns to the side, joining new signings Jack Bourke, who comes from Athlone, and Paul Kennedy form Listowel Celtic. O’Connor’s assistant is Brendan Hogan, formerly Listowel Celtic manager. Athea will be missing Kevin Murphy and Padraig Reidy at the start of the season through injury.
Carrig Celtic have had a quiet pre-season with no definite news yet on the player or management front.
Looking ahead, I expect the title to be contested between Abbeyfeale United, Broadford United and Rathkeale, with Ballingarry as possible dark horses, depending on how their new players integrate. Newcastle West Rovers, Carrig Celtic and Glin Rovers are mid-table candidates, with Athea United, Granagh United and Shannonside expected to be involved in a relegation battle.
Division 1 is expected to be quite competitive. Ballysteen, unbeaten winners of Division 2 last season, have strengthened under the management team of Brian Barry, Mike Neville and Ger Somers with the signings of Sean Whelan, Evan O’Donoghue, Darragh Laffin and possibly Danny Neville. The management will have to do without the services of super club servant, Seamie Fitzgerald, who has retired, but can rely on key players Darragh Ranahan, John O’Shaughnessy, Ed Gallagher and Mark Ranahan.
Breska Rovers, managed again by Adrian Costello, have also been busy, making seven new signings, while AK United have made one huge signing by transferring Ross Mann from Cobh Ramblers.
Abbeyfeale United B have new management in Joe Weir and Darragh Murphy, assisted by Rob Cummins and Terence O’Mahony, and they have assembled a mostly young side.
Killeaney usually return to the top flight at the first attempt, while it will be interesting to see how Newcastle West, managed by Noel Murphy, Paul Whelan and Andy Lyons, adjust to life outside of the Premier Division.
Dermot Costello will use his vast experience to guide Adare United, while Glantine, under the management of Enda Mulcahy, Patrick O’Connor, Brian O’Connor and Mike J. Sweeney, have to be considered as realistic promotion contenders, having finished third last season.
Feenagh and Kildimo United were both close to the relegation zone last season and will be looking for improved fortunes.
Shountrade, entering their 30th season, won two Cups last season and were beaten in another Final. Managed by Kevin Lenihan, Niall Histon and Timmy Shiels, they have signed Cormac O’Shea from Creeves Celtic and Brian Meade from Rathkeale and will be favourites for the Division 2 title, with the danger likely to come from relegated Rathkeale B, managed by Ian Hickey and Denis O’Kelly, who are likely to use several of the players that they led to the Youths treble two seasons ago.
There are six teams in Division 3 and each team will play each other three times.
Clubs with two junior teams are reminded that it is essential when signing players to mark whether the player is registering for the A-team or the B-team. If neither A-team nor B-team is marked on the registration form, then the player will be considered to be an A-team player, even if the intention was to sign him as a B-team player.
All clubs should ensure that all players are signed as spot-checks will be done by the League during the season and clubs found to be in breach will be punished according to rule.
When filling out match cards, clubs should be aware that a player signed with the Bs but playing with the As must be marked as a B player on the match card by putting a circled B after the player’s name.
Transfers can take place until the 30th of September and again when the transfer window reopens for the months of December and January. No transfers between clubs will be allowed during October and November and from February onwards. Transfers from B-team to A-team using the five-game rule can take place anytime during the season, with such transfer requiring sanction by the Management Committee.
Sunday results should be phoned in as soon as possible after the match but not later than 4.30 and the same applies to Saturday Youths games. In the event of Cup games going to extra-time, results should be phoned in immediately after the match. The results of evening matches should be phoned in immediately after the match. As usual, the person to ring is Frank Nelligan and the number is 068-31386, rather than the mobile number. Please include details of scorers if leaving a message on the answering machine. It is the responsibility of the home team to phone in results and failure to do so within the time required will result in a fine being imposed.
Clubs are reminded that player suspensions which weren’t fully served last season carry through to this season.