Walsh takes charge as Cats welcome Wexford

A NEW season, a new regime and some new faces – but an old view of the competition.

A NEW season, a new regime and some new faces – but an old view of the competition.

That’s the message coming from the Kilkenny & District League camp as they get ready to kick off their 2011/12 Oscar Traynor Trophy campaign.

The five-times champions will have some fresh faces in their ranks when they take on Wexford in the season opener at Derdimus on Sunday (kick-off 2pm), both on the field and off it. Taking over the reins this year is Ollie Walsh, who is hoping to restore some local pride and respect in the competition.

“We want to get the local interest back,” he said.

“It’s a big honour to play in the Oscar Traynor for Kilkenny. It’s a great competition; one which, people shouldn’t forget, gives soccer players a chance to win an All-Ireland in their sporting field.”

Joined by his brother Billy, the new manager is hoping for a change in fortunes and attitude.

A depleted Kilkenny exited the competition at the group stages last season, going out after successive defeats to Wexford and Waterford - games in which the Cats failed to score.

“The first thing I wanted to do was to get more young lads and clubs involved,” he said.

“We contacted all of the clubs in the Premier and First Divisions, and the lads who have come in have shown great interest. We have built up a good panel of players.”

The squad has had regular training sessions together, and warmed up for the Wexford game with a 2-0 friendly win over Carlow recently, the goals coming from Stephen Connolly and Aiden Keenan.

Connolly is one of the new faces in the panel. While some of the other newcomers are young, they have the pedigree – Lee Delaney, Declan McQuillan and Robert Skehan were part of the Kilkenny team who bridged a 27-year gap when they won the Youths All-Ireland title back in April.

Walsh is hoping that the winning trend continues into junior level, but spoke of the value of the competition, highlighting the potential rewards which are there for players.

“We always felt it was a huge honour to get called up for the Oscar Traynor squad,” he said. “If you’re playing junior soccer and want to improve your game playing in this competition is what everyone should be aiming for. If you want to move up to the next level, whether that’s playing at junior international level or get into the Airtricity League, this competition is a great stepping stone.

“Both Billy and I were lucky enough to win this competition twice,” he added. “We got international recognition from it - so we know how important it is.”

Kilkenny & District League Oscar Traynor squad - Goalkeepers: Graham Doyle (Freebooters), Pierce Dargan (Evergreen). Defenders: Michael Falsey, James Kelly, Derek Brennan (Freebooters); Mathew Wong, Lee Delaney, Tommy Earls (Evergreen); Robert Skehan (Thomastown United). Midfielders: Brian Jordan, Niall Andrews, Chris Whearty, Declan McQuillan (Evergreen); Michael Comerford, Ger Hayes (Freebooters); Edward Nugent (Fort Rangers), Stephen Connolly (Thomastown United), Cormac O’Driscoll (AC Kilkenny). Forwards: Joe Mulcahy, Jamie Owens (Evergreen); Damien Raggett (Freebooters); Aiden Keenan (Lions).