After a wait of two and a half months since the Lawson Cup final between victors Pike Rovers and Fairview Rangers, the Limerick District League returned this week with Divisions 3A and 3B kicking us off. There will be 8 divisions from Premier to 3B and it is sure to be another exciting season with plenty of talking points. It is a time of the season where every team has ambitions to finish with league trophies, promotions and cup victories.
The LDMC have decided to retain the top and bottom six split which was introduced for the first time in 2021/2022 season. The move had divided opinion but during initial discussions, the majority appear to agree with the move which will see the league split into a top and bottom 6 based on a team’s league position after 11 matches. The winner of the top 6 will be crowned champions while the team which finishes as the best of the bottom half (7th) will win a shield. The bottom two teams will be relegated to Premier A as always.
Similarly to recent seasons, there has been plenty of incomings and outgoings for every club in the top flight as they look to equal or better last season’s performances. There are six games taking place on the opening night of the season on Thursday August 18th and we will begin our preview below.
Pike Rovers vs Ballynanty Rovers Venue: Crosagalla Kick-off 6.30 pm
Two of last season’s top three take to the field at the home of Pike Rovers as the Hoops begin their title defence. It was an eventful season for Pike as they won their first Premier League title in 8 years and completed the feat by beating bitter rivals Fairview Rangers in a play-off at the Fairgreen.
They also defeated Fairview four days later in the Lawson Cup Final with Kevin Barry and Steven McGann grabbing the goals. On a negative note, Pike failed to produce a vintage display as they lost the FAI Cup Final 1-0 against Villa FC of Waterford. Robbie Williams will remain as manager for a fourth season although two of those have been deeply affected by Covid-19 stoppages. He has lost the services of last year’s top goal scorer Conor Layng who has emigrated along with left-back Paddy O’Malley.
Williams has replaced O’Malley with former Limerick FC team-mate Sean Madigan who joins from Regional United. John Connery and Derek Daly also joined the club from Thursday night’s opponents Ballynanty. Retaining the league title will the main aim but Pike will have to call upon the tried and tested cohort of Eoin Hanrahan, Gary Neville, Pat Mullins, Steven McGann and Wayne O’Donovan to lead the charge for another season.
Ballynanty Rovers were one of the benefactors of the new league format and although they looked to be cut adrift of Fairview and Pike at Christmas time, huge wins over both rivals allowed them to provide a title challenge until the last two games of the campaign. Dave Dunphy will once again manage the northsiders and will be ably assisted by Derek Braddish as they look to challenge once again.
Balla were dealt a huge blow with both Connor Ellis and Jake Dillon departing to sign for title rivals Fairview Rangers with the latter in particular shining last season. However, they have managed to retain many of last year’s squad including Eddie Byrnes, Adrian Power, Daragh Hughes and Dermot Fitzgerald.
Dunphy has also managed to acquire the services of former Limerick FC centre-back Tomas O’Connor and Rhian O’Connell has returned from Treaty United. Finding a regular goal scorer will by Ballynanty’s number one objective as Dunphy has instilled a strong and disciplined defence since taking the job last year. He will be hoping that one of his two new recruits from Moyross in Habideen Gbadebo or Cian Power can provide the fire power.
Pike Rovers Incomings: John Connery and Derek Daly (Both Ballynanty), Sean Madigan (Regional United), Paudie Murphy (Ballingarry AFC), Mikey Conlon (Hitchin Town) Sean Moroney (Ennis Dons)
Ballynanty Rovers Incomings: Aaron Power, Cian Power, Habideen Gbadebo (All Moyross), Cian Fitzgerald (Fairview Rangers), Rian O’Connell, Conor Keane (both Treaty United), Tomas O’Connor (Breska Rovers), Dylan Higgins (Prospect), Josh Adams, Kevin Walsh)
Fairview Rangers vs Coonagh United: Venue: Fairgreen Kick-off 6.30
Fairview will be bitterly disappointed with the way last season finished. Following a super Munster Junior Cup Final win over St. Michaels, the Fairgreen outfit lost both the league play-off Final and Lawson Cup Final to Pike Rovers. Since then, Jason Purcell has left his managerial role and has been replaced by Paul Danaher who was a player under Purcell for a number of years.
Danaher is taking his first foray into management following a good junior career and will be assisted by Paul O’Donnell. The priority for Fairview will be the league this season after last year’s heartache coupled with the fact that the club’s last league success came in 2003, a whopping 20 years ago by the time we conclude the coming season. For a club with the history they possess along with the fact they have picked up three FAI Cup titles since, it is an extraordinarily long wait.
Danaher has wasted no time in strengthening the squad as he has added both Jake Dillon and Connor Ellis from Ballynanty Rovers. In a late move, Fairview have also signed Wayne Colbert who was player/manager Prospect last season.
The lack of a goal scorer was a real problem for the Fairgreen outfit last year but with Ellis joining and being supplied by the likes of Conor Coughlan, Daragh Rainsford and Shane Duggan, they will be hoping that particular problem can now be solved. The likes of Mark Slattery and Jamie Enright have moved on but Fairview will certainly be installed as one of the favourites for the title.
Coonagh United will begin their fourth full season in the Premier Division under a new management team of Paudie Hickey and Ian Connolly. Keith Doran was in charge last season and managed to stave off relegation on the final day of the season with a win over now relegated Kilmallock.
Coonagh have managed to retain the services of top marksman Ger Myles whose goals will be crucial once again while Ronan Ryan, Joey Sheehan and Ian Considine will once again be at the heart of the team for the new campaign. They have added Sean Hartney and AJ McCormack to their ranks and will be hoping to avoid a last day salvo to survive on this occasion.
Fairview Rangers Incomings: Connor Ellis and Jake Dillon (Both Ballynanty), Wayne Colbert (Prospect), Jose Zacquieu (Coonagh United)
Coonagh United Incomings: Sean Hartney (Shelbourne), AJ McCormack (Carew Park), Azeez Olayinka, Lloyd White
Mungret Regional vs Carew Park Venue: Mungret Kick off 6.30 pm
Mungret Regional manager Richie Burke admitted that he was disappointed with the way his side finished the campaign in 2022. Following a huge 1-5 victory over Janesboro at Pearse Stadium in late April, Mungret looked odds on to win the first ever Limerick District League Shield as they held a four point gap over their rivals. However, they failed to win any of their last three games and Janesboro were shield winners.
Burke had assembled a young Mungret side and he has attempted to add experience to it with the likes of Aled Harkin and Donie Curtin joining the club. Mungret were dealt a big blow with the news that playmaker Kian Barry was joining Aisling Annacotty. Challenging for the shield may be the goal again this season although during our interview with the Mungret manager, he has ambitions of eventually challenging to be in the top 6 in the long run.
Carew Park are Premier A champions following a very successful season which also included the Premier A Cup win and will be under the guidance of Albert Slattery upon their return to the top tier. As well as retaining most of last season’s squad, Slattery has made some astute signings with Mark Slattery and Jamie Enright returning from Fairview while Arron Nunan joins from Athlunkard.
Kieran Hanlon has also returned to the club from Treaty United and there will be plenty of competition in the forward ranks with Nunan, Mark McGrath and Johnathan Grant also present. Although the likes of Slattery, Enright, Griffin and Grant are considered veterans at this level, they will be a threat to any team and a top 6 challenge certainly wont be out of Carew Park’s reach.
Mungret Regional Incomings: Donie Curtin (Janesboro), Aled Harkin, Josh O’Rahilly (Prospect), Stephen O’Dwyer (Croom), Eoghan Kelly
Carew Park Incomings: Kieran Hanlon (Treaty United), Arron Nunan (Athlunkard Villa), Mark Slattery/Jamie Enright (Fairview Rangers), Michael Guerin (Coonagh United), Adam Feeney, Gavin White, Daragh Walsh