KILKENNY is getting ready to host a tournament of champions.
League and Cup winners from across the South-East will be in the city over the coming weeks as eight junior soccer clubs get their pre-season plans underway.
The champions have been invited to compete in a charity tournament by the Kilkenny & District League, with the winners taking home the Michael ‘Mock’ Lawlor Memorial Trophy. A Freebooters stalwart for many years, Mr Lawlor served the Blues as treasurer and was also club president. Carlow will be represented by champions Crettyard (League) and New Oak (Cup), while Campile (Cup) and Shamrock Rovers (League) will be flying the flag for Wexford at the eight-team tournament. They will be joined by Combined Counties Senior Division champions Willow Park from Athlone and Waterford league champions Carrick United. Carrick are also the current holders of the Munster Senior Cup, becoming only the second junior team to hold such a title when they beat Limerick FC 1-0 in May.
The hosts will be represented by Kilkenny’s top two. Premier Division champions Evergreen will kick-off the competition when they play Crettyard at Derdimus on Tuesday evening. McCalmont Cup holders Freebooters, who beat Evergreen in last year’s final, will start the defence of their title against Carrick United the following evening.
“We had such a good reaction to last year’s competition that we decided to extend this year’s version to eight teams,” League official John Corrigan told the ’People. “Clubs were interested in coming back and playing here again, as they found it was a good way to prepare for the season ahead.
“It’s a very good pre-season tournament,” he added. “Teams will be able to get top quality challenge matches, which also have a competitive edge to them.”
The opening round of games will run from Tuesday to Friday, with all eight teams in action over the four nights at Derdimus (kick-off is at 7pm for each game). Following the Evergreen and Freebooters ties, Campile United will play New Oak on the third evening, with Shamrock Rovers taking on Willow Park in the last of the quarter-finals.
The draw for the semi-finals, which will be played on August 2 and 3, is: Evergreen/Crettyard United v Shamrock Rovers/Willow Park (7pm) and Freebooters/Carrick United v Campile/New Oak (7pm). The final will be held on the weekend of August 6/7.
Competition rules dictate that clubs can use panels of 16 players, with subs allowed to interchange as in challenge games. Red and yellow cards will be reported as per FAI rules, while players serving suspensions are not permitted to take part.
In the event of a draw, all games will go straight to penalties, then sudden death spot kicks. All games will be 09 minutes long and will be covered by members of Kilkenny branch of the Irish Soccer Referees Society, who have given their services free of charge.
The main aim of the tournament is to raise as much money as possible for a local charity. This year’s benefactor will be named when the competition is officially launched this Friday evening.
While there is no admittance fee, a collection will be taken up at all games. Teams will also have the option to make contributions, with all funds raised going to local charities.
Following on from the success of last year’s games, hopes are high that the competition could become a permanent fixture on soccer in the region.
“The competition has gathered momentum since last year,” added Mr Corrigan. “Who knows where it could go in the future.”