Last week, we provided a brief evaluation of the performances of the current top six of the PJ Matthews Premier League. As the future of football all around the world, particularly at grassroots level remains uncertain, we will endeavour to bring content to our readers.
This week, we will concentrate on the performances of the bottom six, do they conform to pre-season expectations and what the future might bring for all six.
Mungret Regional: We start with this season’s surprise package and newly promoted Mungret Regional. Many people including this writer predicted a season of struggle for the county Limerick outfit but they have surpassed expectations as they battle for a top half finish.
With such a young squad, the step up from Division 1A seemed like a daunting one but Eddie Storan’s outfit have managed to defeat many of the sides who were predicted to struggle at the start of the season with them and it has proved crucial to their success.
The particular highlight would be a 1-1 draw with Premier Division heavyweights Pike Rovers and it was a game that Mungret were leading but conceded in the last ten minutes. A notable result against Aisling Annacotty was also very helpful.
They have an exciting array of young attacking talent including Colm Barrett Junior, son of the club’s former junior international goalkeeper Colm Barrett Senior and Cian McNicholas, son of assistant manager Keith McNicholas.
However, it has been the defensive structure of the team which has impressed the majority of opposition managers. The fact that they have the third best defensive record in the league is testament to this. With nine points separating the club from the relegation zone with a game in hand,
Janesboro: It has been a season of change at Pearse Stadium. The glory days of the last three seasons in particular appear to be a distant memory but considering the squad turnover since the league victory over Ballynanty last April, it has been a solid season.
After losing virtually a full squad including the Clarke brothers and joint manager Aidan Ryan, current manager Shane O’Hanlon had a big job on his hands. His squad for the first half of the season was threadbare to say the least with a reliance on B team players and even playing goalkeeper Tommy Holland outfield. The lowest ebb for the team was a 6-1 defeat to Ballynanty in the Tuohy Cup as well as a 6-1 defeat to Pike.
Meanwhile, O’Hanlon remained adamant that he would recruit the players to revive the team. Recently, ‘Boro have re-signed the likes of John Mulready, Ryan Doherty, and Thomas Lyons while signing Pat Whelan from Prospect Priory and Kevin Barry from Geraldines.
It is now time for former Limerick FC youngsters Ger Barry and Aaron Fitzgerald to show their quality which brought about the faith shown in them by former manager Tommy Barrett. A top half finish would be a superb ending but realistically this year was always going to be about consolidation and looking to re-building for the future, part of which has already begun.
Nenagh AFC: The Tipperary outfit have largely conformed to pre-season expectations as they find themselves in a relegation battle. One must admit that I have only seen Nenagh in action on one occasion this season, a comprehensive victory over Prospect Priory in the Tuohy Cup and therefore it is difficult to give the required objective analysis of their performances.
However, if you had offered manager Ruairi Walshe a five point gap between themselves and the relegation zone with 10 games left, it is safe to say he may have taken you up on that offer.
Nenagh’s season can go one of two ways if we are in a position to resume. They are just six points off the top six but are also very close to the bottom if the sides below them can hit a vein of form and Walshe’s men are complacent. The victory over Geraldines in their last league outing was precious and provided some breathing space and could be the result which maintains their Premier Division status.
Prospect Priory: Following last season’s steady return to the top flight, Prospect have found life in the post-Derek Braddish to be tough. Daithi O’Donoghue took over the reigns following Braddish’s decision to take a year’s hiatus and as dealt a blow with the departure of striker Darren O’Sullivan.
A turbulent time continued as Daithi O’Donoghue joined long-time associate Shane O’Hanlon and returned to Janesboro. It threw the season into chaos and the team were struggling on the pitch with heavy defeats against Fairview and Pike.
Anthony McCormack took over before Christmas but was unable to turn the tide as the team were heavily defeated by Nenagh in the Tuohy Cup and then lost a crucial league game to Kilmallock. With an ageing squad, it looked ominous but a huge results against Coonagh United in their last league outing has re-invigorated the side and they are currently outside the relegation places. Staying up with such a small and squad and with a high age profile would be a great achievement.
Kilmallock: It is very rare that a team in the bottom three travels to a team in the top two, score four goals and still lose by four but that is exactly what happened to Kilmallock in their game against Ballynanty three weeks ago. The defence has been an achilles heel for the county Limerick side all season and the fifty goals conceded in 12 games is evidence of this problem.
It is the worst defensive record in the division which is a shame as Niall O’Riordan’s side possess a lot of attacking talent including former Limerick District League representatives Barry Sheedy and Jack Barry. Results against Prospect and Coonagh will be crucial in their bid to stay in the division.
As captain Sheedy alluded to at Christmas time, Kilmallock can put it up to anyone on their home patch but struggle away from home. However, if the season was to run on until the summer, the club could be the worst affected due to GAA commitments. However, the future of both the club champions in GAA and the soccer season are still up in the air.
Coonagh United: Following last season’s promotion, much like Mungret, many predicted a struggle for Coonagh during their first ever season in the top flight of Limerick junior soccer. Manager John Spillane said that the club’s main aim is to preserve their premier status in 2021. It will be the club’s 50th anniversary and a fitting way to celebrate.
However, they will have a severe battle on their hands to avoid the drop after a disappointing defeat to Prospect. Spillane’s men now prop up the table but are just one point behind Prospect and Kilmallock. The team will be reliant on the goals from Ger Myles if they are to remain in the top flight as they have been unable to improve their defensive record all season.
The team may have been distracted by their run to the last 16 of the FAI Junior Cup this season but focus must now resume on the league from this point forward.