7 West Cork League things to look forward to this weekend
By Ger McCarthy
- Football is back
A new West Cork League season begins this weekend with all three divisions packed full of intriguing matchups, none more so than in the PremierHiSpecCars.com Premier Division where defending champions Dunmanway Town face an early test of their credentials at home to Lyre Rovers.
Winning one title is difficult enough but defending that championship is even harder and Town will need to hit the ground running considering the wealth of talent amongst the top tier this season. Much will depend on Mark Buckley’s scoring ability but Dunmanway start as favourites.
- Drinagh begin their title challenge
One of the most decorated clubs in the WCL welcome Spartak Mossgrove to Canon Crowley Park on Sunday, eager to start their campaign in the best possible fashion.
Rangers have already claimed the Michael Cronin Cup following a penalty shootout victory over arch rivals Dunmanway but a sustained Premier Division title challenge requires a positive start. A big question heading into the 2017-18 season is can Drinagh turn Beamish and Parkway Cup successes into another league triumph?
- New boys first taste of top tier action
Spartak Mossgrove and Lyre Rovers make their 2017 Premier Division debuts away from home this weekend having both come up through Divisions 1 and 2 over the past couple of years.
Spartak have shown, in cup competitions at least, that they can challenge the established Premier clubs while Lyre possesses an emerging squad that will not be overawed by competing in the top tier.
It will be fascinating to see how both clubs fare over the next nine months and any points picked up away from home would be a welcome morale-boost on Sunday.
- Leeside’s greatest challenge
One of the West Cork League’s longest serving clubs face into another Premier Division campaign as one of the favourites to go down. Leeside have specialised in avoiding the drop over the past number of years but news that their Inchigeela home ground is no longer available to them comes as a serious blow on the eve of the new season. Not playing this weekend, Leeside need all the help they can get before a ball is kicked.
- Can ‘the dependables’ step up to the plate?
Togher Celtic and Riverside Athletics’ opening-day meeting brings together two of the Premier Division’s most consistent and dependable clubs, the former having won last season’s Premier Cup and the latter only two seasons removed from winning the championship without losing a game.
Both sides will be without players that lined out in the previous campaign and it is a big ask for Togher and Riverside to step up and challenge the Dunmanway and Drinagh’s of the top tier. Yet, neither Celtic nor Athletic should fear anyone on their home grounds and are capable of pushing the top two before seasons end.
- Division 1 title-race could be the best of the lot
Gaining promotion to the promised land of the PremierHiSpecCars.com Premier will be on the minds of the West Cork League’s middle tier Division 1 league clubs who start their respective campaigns this weekend.
Bantry Bay Rovers lost their top flight status following a play-off loss to Ballydehob at the tail-end of last season but a Beamish Cup final appearance at Turner’s Cross suggests the Kealkil club are capable of bouncing straight back.
Bunratty United were also relegated last term and Gabriel Rangers GAA successes has hit the Town Park club’s aspirations hard. Yet, United will still be in the mix for promotion along with a resurgent Clonakilty Town plus Skibbereen, Crookstown and Durrus sides eager for their chance to move up to the top division.
- Another Division 2 dogfight on the horizon
Division 2 of the WCL remains the toughest and most unpredictable league in the region. Sullane and Baltimore begin life in the bottom tier having been relegated last season and both will be anxious to go straight back up.
A victory over Courtmacsherry would represent the perfect start for the Coolea club as would a win for the Crabs at home to Dunmanway B on Sunday. Castletown Celtic, Castlelack, Ardfield and Drinagh Rangers B are all capable of taking points off the Division 2 favourites in another promotion race that looks like it will go right to the wire.