League Cup start as Desmond League returns this weekend

The 2023/24 Limerick Desmond League gets underway this weekend, with the Junior men’s season springing into action. There are 12 games down for decision with the restructured Divisions now set for their first season.

Clubs agreed over 12 months ago, to reduced all Divisions to a maximum of eight teams. This resulted in three sides being relegated from the Premier Division. Those sides, namely Ballingarry, Kilcornan and Granagh United drop a Division. Kilcornan have merged with Askeaton, to form a new club, Askeaton Kilcornan FC.

A total of 31 sides have affiliated for the new season, which remains steady after a number of years of decline over the last decade. The league is still backboned by familiar protagonists, though there are a number of clubs who’ve progressed on and off the field in recent years to challenge the bigger sides.

The top tier, consists of eight sides. League winners, Broadford United, Cup holders, Rathkeale, Abbeyfeale United, Breska Rovers, Creeves Celtic, Glin Rovers, Newcastle West Town, as well as Division One winners, Athea United. The highlight of week one sees a repeat of the final last seasons final, between Rathkeale and Abbeyfeale United. Rathkeale were 1-0 winners last December.

The second-tier has relegated Ballingarry and Granagh United, and the merger between Askeaton Kilcornan. They are joined by Division Two winners, Glin Rovers B, who play at this level for the first time. Rathkeale B received a stay of execution to stay in the second tier, while St. Ita’s will hope for a better season than last season. Shannonside, runners-up last year will hope to challenge for honours alongside divisional favourites, Dromore United A.

The game of the weekend in this tier sees Dromore United host Glin Rovers B in Pallaskenry. This clash brought the curtain down on the 2022/23 season, when Dromore United won the Riedy Cup 5-3 after-extra time.

Division Two, naturally sees plenty of movement. Coming down the ladder are Shountrade and Newcastle West Town. Rising the ranks are two sides who were closely matched last year, Feenagh and Ballysteen. It was the latter who edged that and won a League and Cup double. That quartet are alongside Ballingarry B, Abbeyfeale United B and Mountcollins and Knockaderry.

Each of the top three League Cup groups will be played on a single round basis, with the top two progressing to the semi-finals.

The Division Three Cup draw, which took place earlier this week will see a group of four and a smaller group of three. The latter will play on a home and away basis. This division welcomes the return of Kilcolman Rovers who’ve built steadily at underage, as well the second string sides of Askeaton Kilcornan, Breska Rovers, Dromore United. Glantine A, relegated last season, are joined by their B team, the other side is Carrig Celtic who are looking to continue a slow build after returning to the pitch last season.

The FAI Junior Cup, Munster Junior Cup and the Munster Junior Shield competitions will be intermingled throughout the cup fixtures, with the League action not set to get underway until at least October. The Divisional Cup finals, as was the case last season, will be played in December if possible.

The Youths League is progressing, which had an August start, in an attempt to get a greater balance for players and avoid a series of walkovers experienced last season.

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