The Limerick Junior Soccer season is due to get underway next Tuesday (August 13th) with a 6:30pm kick off time for two Premier Division games.
There are six games in the newly named Premier A League, formally Division 1A. The other four Premier League games are due to take place on the following Thursday.
The structure of the Premier Division has changed this season with all 12 teams facing one another in the first round of games.
However, once the first round of fixtures have been completed, the league will then split into a top six and bottom six based on the accumulation of points from the first round of games.
The top six teams will then face off both home and away against their fellow top six rivals with the ultimate prize of becoming league champions on offer.
The bottom six will also compete against their lower half rivals both home and away in a bid to avoid relegation.
Also, the seventh place team will receive a shield for finishing at the summit of the bottom half of the table,
The awarding of the shield is a contentious issue as many believe that it may be condescending to reward a team for finishing 7th position overall but the LDMC are trying to provide incentives to prevent teams losing interest in the season quickly.
Last season, walkovers were more prevalent than ever in the top tier which was disappointing to see. The hope is that the re-structuring will put an end to the a worrying trend.
Aisling Annacotty, who had a great season last time out, will have to do without the services of three key players from last year’s squad.
Ben Banaghan and Dylan and Sheahan have moved abroad for the year, while Jason Lipper has joined Fairview Rangers.
On a positive note, Annacotty have signed former Carew Park and Coonagh striker Mark McGrath.
McGrath has been plying his trade in the in the lower leagues with Coonagh for the past few years, but will hope to return to the form which saw him fire his former employers to a league title in the not so distant past.
With the newly installed dressing rooms, community centre and grass pitch along with last season’s cup run, excitement will be through the roof but manager Mike Aherne has warned that his squad will have an even younger age profile this season.
Champions Janesboro will be looking to secure their fourth successive league title success for the first time in the club’s history but begin the season without Irish junior international Danny O’Neill who has re-joined Geraldines.
Also, Ryan Doherty has moved away and will be unavailable for selection. Serial goal scorer Keith Mawdsley has also departed the club and it breaks up a formidable partnership with Shane Clarke which terrorised local defences for the past three years.
Goalkeeper John Mulready has re-joined Bridge United but it appears that former Limerick FC goalkeeper Tommy Holland will fill the void.
Declan Cusack has signed from Regional United and former ‘Boro and Pike man John Tierney is close to a return.
Fairview Rangers appear to have had the busiest pre-season with several premier league regulars transferring to the Lawson Cup winners ahead of the new campaign.
Jason Purcell’s men had a strong finish to last season and have added Dermot Fitzgerald, Mark Slattery, Jason Lipper, Aaron Savage and Ger Barry to their ranks.
Many people have now tipped the Fairgreen outfit to challenge for the league title for the first time in many years although it may take time for such a vast array of new talent to gel.
The likes of youngster Scott Kirwan began making appearances for the club towards the end of last year as Fairview had a very youthful bench.
The influx of experienced players adds to the competition and the youngsters may find game time harder to come by in the coming season.
Pike Rovers were dealt a massive blow ahead of the new season as Mick Sheil left the club after 20 months in charge.
In that time, Sheil led the club to FAI Junior Cup Final and won the Munster Junior and Tuohy Cups.
Despite dividing opinion among some, Sheil had developed a thoroughly professional set up at the Crosagalla club and it will be a difficult act to follow for the new man.
The lack of additions to the squad was cited as one of the main issues and Sheil felt he couldn’t take the club any further without freshening things up.
Before his departure, Sheil had revealed that Adam Lipper had joined Limerick U-19s while Pat Mullins had decided against playing this year.
Johnathan Hannafin has also departed but long term injury victim Wayne Colbert has returned to the squad. Holding on to the services of Steven McGann is crucial for the Hoops who will be desperate to dethrone Janesboro.