WILL IT BE a ’Green four in a row, could Blue be the colour again or might a pack of Lions be roaring? These are some of the questions clubs will be hoping to answer in a new season of junior soccer.
After their longest break in recent years the top two divisions of the Kilkenny & District League will swing back into action on Sunday, with six games down for 11am kick-offs.
Evergreen A will begin the defence of their Premier Division title with a home game against the Lions. The big test for Eddie McEvoy’s team this season will be to see if they can fill the gap left by the loss of Joe Mulcahy, who has joined a large Kilkenny contingent at Airtricity League outfit Wexford Youths.
The Premier Division’s Player of the Year last season, Mulcahy scored more than 50 goals as the Kells Road side won their third successive league title - for good measure they also helped themselves to the Maher Shield spoils.
Evergreen have also lost young midfielder Declan McQuillan. The former Kilkenny youth All-Ireland-winning captain has moved to the US on a four-year scholarship deal in Carolina. On the plus side brothers Michael and Mark Cashin are back in training with the team having taken a year’s break.
The champions will be hoping that a switch from defence into attack will reap the benefits this term. Dylan Whearty, who plied his trade as centre-half with Evergreen B last season, has been given a role in the Evergreen A team this term, playing a part in the side’s strike force in the pre-season Mock Lawlor Cup competition.
Some of the big changes have come with Evergreen’s B team. After securing the side’s top flight status last year, Ollie Walsh and Robbie Lawlor have stepped away from managerial duties. Gary Maher and Niall O’Callaghan will take charge of the team this term.
As for the Lions, the Durrow men made good on their return to the top flight last season. They got some solid results while also making the semi-finals of the McCalmont Cup. Their form this season could hinge on whether they can attract Aiden Keenan back to the Cork Road. Currently playing with Wexford Youths, speculation is that he could be back on home turf soon.
Much like their cross-city rivals Freebooters A have also seen some changes ahead of their season opener against Bridge United A this Sunday.
Rather than onfield, the Blues have made their big switches off it, with Anthony Hanney and John Maclean taking over the running of the Fair Green outfit. Hanney has taken up the managerial role full-time, cutting his teeth in the latter stages of the last campaign. He will be joined by Maclean, who masterminded the first leg of Evergreen’s league treble while with Evergreen A. Both will also be able to call on the experience of former Freebooters captain Michael Falsey, who has swapped defensive duties for a backroom role with the side.
’Booters will be hoping to reap some rewards from their all-conquering youths team. Some of those young Blues, who won the treble last season, will be expected to step up and help the club regain the title, especially as others have moved from the Fair Green - players such as midfielder Michael Comerford and John Hayes, who have moved to Newpark United.
Thomastown United A will mark their return to the Premier with a home game against Freebooters B. Paul Dunne’s side had an impressive season in Division One, winning the silverware thanks to a strong finish to the campaign which took them past their title rivals Clover United. Thomastown, who will be coached by Stephen Walsh and Richard Watson, will be hoping to continue that form into the new campaign.
With nine teams in the division one side will have a longer break than the rest. Jim Cashin’s Fort Rangers will be the odd men out, waiting until the second round of games to play their opening match against Derrick Kenny’s Freebooters B on Wednesday next.
St Canice’s Credit Union Premier Division
Sunday, August 26 (11am)
Clover United A v Evergreen B
Evergreen A v Lions A
Freebooters A v Bridge United A
Thomastown United A v Freebooters B
Wednesday, August 29 (7pm)
Bridge United A v Thomastown United A
Evergreen B v Freebooters A
Freebooters B v Fort Rangers
Lions A v Clover United A
Sunday, September 2 (11am)
Clover United A v Evergreen A
Evergreen B v Lions A
Fort Rangers v Bridge United A
Freebooters A v Thomastown United A
The action also begins in a tight Division One on Sunday, with ten teams hoping to hit the ground running. Relegated last term, Deen Celtic A and East End United A will be hoping to get back into the Premier Division at the first attempt.
However, their task won’t be that easy. McCalmont and Division One Cup finalists Newpark United A, who were also in the running for promotion until the closing stages of last season, will also be keen to return to the top flight after a short absence.
The division will also see an intriguing North Kilkenny derby. Joining Johnstown’s Spa United will be Urlingford, who won the Division Two title last year. Graignamanagh’s Highview Athletic, who enjoyed a superb run to the latter stages of the FAI Junior Cup, were also promoted after a successful 2011/12 campaign.
Division One also welcomes back Southend United, who have rejoined the league after a year out following their relegation from the Premier Division in 2010/11. Just for good measure, McCalmont Cup champions Callan United are also in the mix in what could be the most competitive division in Kilkenny this season.
Sunday, August 26
Deen Celtic A v Urlingford, 11am
Southend United v AC Kilkenny A, 11am
Tuesday, August 28
Stoneyford United v Callan United, 6.30pm
Thursday, August 30
East End United A v Newpark United A, 6.30pm
Sunday, September 2 (11am)
AC Kilkenny A v Deen Celtic A
Callan United v Highview Athletic A
Newpark United A v Southend United
Spa United v Stoneyford United
Urlingford v East End United A