Clare District Soccer League (CDSL) PRO Jim Madden is looking forward to an exciting season ahead as Junior soccer returns this weekend.
With the nine team Maloney Hardware Premier Division commencing this Saturday, all eyes will be firmly fixed on whether Avenue United can defend their crown or will the wounded animal that is Newmarket Celtic find a way to strike back?
On Saturday evening, David Russell’s side face Lifford AFC with Bridge United hosting Kilrush Rangers, Shannon Town travelling to newly promoted Tulla United and Newmarket Celtic facing Coole FC. All games start at 6.30pm.
Madden believes Avenue United will face stiff competition from Newmarket Celtic, Shannon Town and Bridge United but he believes David Russell’s side are firm favourites to regain league glory.
“I think they (Avenue) have got stronger. David Russell is a very ambitious coach and he will be keen to back up last year’s success. I believe they will focus on making deep runs in the FAI and Munster Junior Cups. They have kept the core group from last year and have strengthened the competition for places so they will be hard to beat.”
Meanwhile, with former Sheffield United underage player Harvey Cullinan back in the mix for Newmarket Celtic, Madden expects the league’s roll of honour leaders to integrate more youth players in to the senior set up as they seek a rebuild after coming so close to regaining the title last season.
“Young Cullinan is back and that will be a big boost for Newmarket. He should be fit and he will be one of a number of younger players introduced to that side. They needed to make some changes so it will be interesting to see how the shake up works out for them.”
With Coole FC, Tulla United and Kilrush Rangers all making the step up to the Maloney Hardware Premier Division, Madden expects the trio to hold their own and prove stubborn opposition for the more established sides at the top table.
“I think they will breathe fresh air in to the Premier Division. They are all dangerous sides to play. Michael Clair has made Kilrush a tough side to beat and they will be keen to ruffle a few feathers.
“Coole are building and if they can get a good start then that will be a big help plus I think they will be tough to beat at home. Tulla play some nice football and anyone that travels to The Cragg and gets points will earn it.”
The CDSL PRO believes Shannon Town, Bridge United and Lifford AFC will be competitive once more as they seek to close the gap to Avenue and Newmarket.
“If Bridge get off to a good start then they have a chance because last season they started poorly and were chasing after that. They need to get points on the board to keep the pressure on.
Shannon Town have lost a few veterans and experience is very important. They have rebuilding to do but there is talent coming through.”
“Lifford will be hoping to build on last season where they improved after a shaky start. They will want to show that they are not there just to make up the numbers.”
The teams in the First, Second and Third Divisions will start their campaigns with their respective League Cups until the serious business starts next month. Madden feels that Shannon Hibs, Sporting Ennistymon and Shannon Olympic will be firmly in the mix for promotion back to the Maloney Hardware Premier Division.
The CDSL PRO also feels that Ennis Dons and Bunratty/Cratloe will be hard to displace in the Brian Pyne Tiles Second Division while he admits new side Fairgreen Celtic have the potential to move out of the Brownies Barebershop Third Division.
With opinions split on the new nine team Premier Division, Madden understands the concerns but feels that competitiveness will be at an all time high when action resumes this Saturday.
“I do think it will be very competitive. One team has a little break so it can give teams an extra week of training. I feel that it will be a little bit more competitive. I’m really looking forward to it all starting back again!”