CAN Evergreen make it a treble, or will someone else nab the spoils? That’s the question the Kilkenny & District League’s top flight soccer teams will be trying to answer as they begin their charge for the Premier Division title this week.
Having won their second Premier Division title in succession last season, the chance to make it a hat-trick is there for Eddie McEvoy’s side. However, Freebooters A will lead the charge to ensure the club from the Kells Road don’t have it all their own way again.
The champions and their closest rivals will be hoping to hit the ground running when they make a busy start to the season this Sunday. The duo, billed as front-runners for the title, will each have to take on the challenge of four games in ten days as the top flight kicks off with two midweek rounds of matches.
Both Freebooters A and Evergreen A enjoyed successful pre-season campaigns. The two sides earned early helpings of silverware, with Freebooters A beating club-mates and Premier Division rivals Freebooters B 2-0 to earn the Mock Lawlor Memorial Cup. Evergreen A went out in the semi-finals, but made amends when beating Shamrock Rovers of Wexford 3-1 to take the spoils in a competition in Waterford over the weekend.
Just like last year, both Evergreen and Freebooters will have two teams in the top flight. The club’s B teams may have been expected to struggle, but good performances under their respective managers Ollie Walsh and Derrick Kenny saw them survive at the expense of Southend United and AC Kilkenny.
Interestingly, one of the strong runners for the title won’t be in the race this year. After several seasons in Kilkenny, St Pat’s Boy have opted to return to the Carlow League.
The Graiguecullen side made teams sit up and take notice when they rejoined the Kilkenny & District League but despite posing a threat success didn’t follow. They lost a Maher Shield final to East End United and couldn’t break the stranglehold Freebooters and Evergreen had on the League title - ironically, their last season in Kilkenny saw them earn third place, their best finish in the division.
In their place, however, will be two strong contenders from Division One. League champions Lions and runners-up Bridge United will bring an extra dimension to the top flight. The Durrow side were runners-up in the Maher Shield, going down to Freebooters in the final but not before taking the scalp of Evergreen A along the way with a 5-0 win over the city side.
The return of Aidan Keenan was a huge fillip for the Lions, the midfielder returning to his local club after a successful stint with Evergreen - where he won a Premier Division title. Keenan’s form with the Lions also saw him end last season with a personal triumph, as he was named Division One’s Player of the Year.
As for Bridge United, they made their stay in Division One a short one. Fresh from their Division Two elevation they earned successive promotions when they took second place in the race for Division One spoils.
The club did get some silverware, winning the Division One Cup, to keep their revival in full flow. The 2010 Maher Shield and McCalmont Cup finalists will be hoping to get off to a good start when they open their Premier Division schedule against Freebooters B, hoping to get as many points on the board as quickly as possible to ensure their stay in the top flight is not a brief one.
The seasoned campaigners at Fort Rangers and East End United have contrasting starts to their respective seasons - both sides will take on Deen Celtic in the opening two rounds, but while Fort will head for Castlecomer on day one East End United will open against the defending champions Evergreen A. Fort will be the odd team out in the second round.
St Canice’s Credit Union Premier Division
Sunday, August 21 (all 11am)
Deen Celtic v Fort Rangers.
Evergreen A v East End United.
Bridge United v Freebooters B.
Freebooters A v Evergreen B.
Wednesday, August 24 (6.45pm)
Lions v Freebooters A.
Freebooters B v Evergreen A.
East End United v Deen Celtic.
Bridge United v Evergreen B.
Sunday, August 28 (11am)
Evergreen A v Fort Rangers.
East End United v Bridge United.
Freebooters A v Freebooters B.
Lions A v Evergreen B.
Wednesday, August 31 (6.45pm)
Freebooters B v Evergreen B.
Fort Rangers v Lions.
Deen Celtic v Evergreen A.
Bridge United v Freebooters A.