Munster Football Association Keanes Jewellers League Champions Trophy Final (extra time & penalties if required).
Abbeyfeale United vs St. Michael’s
It does not get much bigger than this contest on Sunday as Abbeyfeale and St. Michael’s face off in the final of the Munster Football Association Keanes Jewellers League Champions Trophy Final in Newcastle West AFC’s grounds. Abbeyfeale started off in this competition with a 5-0 win against Kilworth Celtic of the West Waterford and East Cork League and followed that up with a 3-1 win after extra-time against Dingle Bay Rovers despite being down to ten men after an hour before reaching the final with a 2-1 win against Nenagh Celtic. Last Saturday night’s victory against Kildrum Tigers made it 21 games without a loss for the Fealesiders, an unprecedented run of form. Despite defeating so many fantastic teams in previous games including Rathkeale and Broadford United in terms of the Desmond League and outside clubs such as Killarney Athletic, this will be their toughest challenge yet. They have a fantastic team who have experienced their fair share of silverware in recent years and have proven themselves time and time again recently. Billy Quirke has been praised by both myself and others and it is for good reason as he is undoubtedly the best keeper in the Desmond League and has proven his abilities outside of the local league also with his fantastic last minute save against Nenagh Celtic ensuring that they reached this final. Chris Smith is a standout player for his side in the backline despite being so young while Joe Kelliher boasts a great deal of experience in the middle of the park. Tommy Smith is no stranger to finding the net having netted twice last Saturday and is another vital player for their side. One of their strongest abilities is their unmatched fitness with them seemingly having the legs to run all day, something which will aid them against a great St. Michael’s team on a wide Newcastle West pitch. Their familiarity with this grounds is a further benefit to them also as they head into this tie.
St. Michael’s hail from Tipperary where they are the reigning and defending Tipperary South & District League Premier Division champions. They started off in this tournament with a 4-0 win against West Cork’s Riverside Athletic. They then edged out Carrick United of the Waterford & District League on a 3-2 scoreline and advanced to the final with a 1-0 victory against Limerick District’s Carew Park. Remarkably, all three of their victories in this competition have been away from home so the fact that they are away yet again this Sunday is not alien to them. They were the winners of this competition in the 2014/15 season when they defeated Park United and they will bid to win it for the second time in three years this Sunday. In their league campaign they sit third in the Premier Division table with five wins and two draws and are three points off of the top spot with a game in hand. They are one of the top teams in the country having won the FAI Junior Cup twice and the FAI Munster Junior Cup eight times in their history, doing the double in 2014. They are second favourites to win the FAI Junior Cup this year and have produced many junior international players. Their current player-manager James Walsh holds the record for most junior internationals and is just one of the seven players on their panel to have represented the Republic of Ireland. They have recorded some big results since the beginning of the season, defeating fellow Premier Division side Galbally United 7-0 away and 5-0 at home along with a 3-1 win against title contenders Peake Villa, a 4-0 away win against Old Bridge and a draw against league leaders Clonmel Town.
This is a huge game between two fantastic sides. They were the best in their respective divisions last year and have proved that they are worthy finalists through their progression in this tournament. Abbeyfeale have done fantastic this year having not lost a game along with reaching the last 32 of Ireland last week but St. Michael’s have a superb team with great experience and so I see them putting an end to Abbeyfeale United’s winning streak.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: St. Michael’s.
Riedy Joinery Cup 2nd Round (extra time & penalties if required).
Carrig Celtic B vs Adare United
Carrig Celtic B and Adare United will bid to reach the Quarter Final of the Riedy Joinery Cup when they do battle this Sunday in Carrigkerry. Adare sit on top of Division Two and have overcome almost all that have come before them including St. Ita’s, Newcastle West Rovers B twice and Bally Rovers to name a few. They have two losses from their twelve games so far this season and have come back stronger from each loss as they went on a three game win streak following their penalty shootout loss against Ballysteen in the Munster Junior Cup and have won their last two games since their 3-0 league loss against Askeaton. Carrig Celtic B have fallen to two successive losses since their penalty shootout victory against Glin Rovers B in the previous round and a win this Sunday would be a great way for them to bounce back but Adare are a great side and have proven it throughout this season and so I think that they will progress.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: Adare United.
Richard Hogan Cup Quarter Final (extra time & penalties if required).
St. Ita’s vs Ballysteen AFC
Two promotion contenders in Division Two face off this Sunday in the Richard Hogan Cup Quarter Final with a home fixture against Adare United awaiting them in the Semi Final. St. Ita’s made it two games without a loss last Sunday as Callum Donoghue struck four times for his side. He has been their best player this season and can score from anywhere, as proven by the fact that he has been on the scoresheet almost every weekend. They have a fantastic defensive record as well keeping seven clean sheets from their fourteen games. Most of St. Ita’s success this season has been on the road where they have recorded six wins, one draw and two losses from their nine away games but they haven’t done as well at home having picked up two wins against Rockhill Rovers and three losses in their five games. Ballysteen have done very well this season with their two losses coming against superior competition in the form of Carrig Celtic and Listowel Celtic in their ten games. Darragh Ranahan was the difference maker last Sunday as his one goal was enough for Ballysteen to pick up the points but they can boast other great players such as Edward Gallagher and Mark Ranahan also. Ballysteen have four clean sheets from their ten games earning three of those in their last three outings which is a good omen for them going into this game. They have recorded very convincing wins over Askeaton, Glin Rovers B and their opponents this Sunday. With Ballysteen picking up a 4-1 win against them on the first game of the season I will have to lean towards them to advance.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: Ballysteen.
Weekly Observer Premier Division.
Athea United vs Newcastle West Rovers
We return to Premier Division action as Athea United host Newcastle West Rovers with the hopes of causing an upset and boosting themselves up the table. Athea have had a tough time of it as of late losing their last four games in a row against some stiff competition. Their two victories this season have both come in convincing fashion against Newcastle West and they also ran Tralee Dynamos close in their FAI Umbro Junior Cup encounter. Newcastle West Rovers proved that their 3-2 loss against Carrig Celtic was merely a blip as they went onto beat the same opposition 8-2 three weeks later. Seoirse Joyce scored four of those goals and has consistently stood out for his side on the attacking front. They have picked up some great results this year such as their 3-1 victories against both Broadford United and Glin Rovers as well as a draw with Abbeyfeale united on the second day of the season. With Rovers picking up a 4-0 victory against Athea last time around and with them getting some great results since then I see them recording a victory this Sunday.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: Newcastle West Rovers.
Ballingarry AFC vs Carrig Celtic
Two sides who have been having poor results as of late will look to end that when Ballingarry host Carrig Celtic at the Paddocks. Ballingarry fell to a 2-0 loss at the hands of Broadford United in the Munster Junior Cup last Sunday and could do with putting some points on the table and distancing themselves from the dropzone. They are a side that are very capable of scoring with Broadford United being the only side to keep them scoreless in their three encounters this season. Carrig Celtichave had good spells throughout the season with victories against the likes of Newcastle West Rovers and Ballingarry but have fallen into a slump losing their last three games in which they have scored two goals and conceded nineteen. Despite Carrig Celtic picking up the victory last time I think that Ballingarry will make the most of their home advantage and show their true class by grabbing the win this Sunday.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: Ballingarry.
Glin Rovers vs Broadford United
In what should be a competitive contest, Glin Rovers take on Broadford United. Glin Rovers grabbed a late point last Sunday as Darren Sheahan converted from a corner in the 85th minute. The young Karl O’Sullivan was stellar in that contest creating many chances for his side and showing great vision on the ball at all times with Mike Stack commanding his area in goal excellently and making great saves throughout. Glin are always fiercely competitive with their biggest losing margin being by two goals in their 3-1 loss against Newcastle West Rovers and so if Broadford are to win this Sunday it won’t be by much. Broadford United’s 2-0 victory against Ballingarry made it three wins in a row for them which will ensure that they are filled with confidence going into this game. Having suffered league defeats to Abbeyfeale United and Newcastle West Rovers earlier in the season, three away points would be huge for them in order to continue their push for the league title. Despite the previously mentioned losses, they have picked up great wins against the likes of Rathkeale, Ballingarry and Athea United and have a host of fantastic players such as Michael Brosnan who was once again amongst the scorers last week. I think that if any of these two sides will win the game that it will be Broadford but I see a draw as the most likely outcome.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: Draw.
Rathkeale AFC vs Killeaney
Rathkeale will look to make it eight league wins from eight while Killeaney will want to pick up their first three points and move closer to leaving the relegation zone when these two sides meet in Holycross on Sunday. Rathkeale bounced back from their extra-time loss to Broadford United in the Munster Junior Cup in emphatic fashion as they defeated Newcastle West 7-1 three weeks ago. Rathkeale have only lost twice this year which were against the aforementioned Broadford United in the FAI Munster Junior Cup and Abbeyfeale United in the FAI Umbro Junior Cup. With them being knocked out of two major competitions there is no doubt that the league will be their main focus. Killeaney were unfortunate to be denied the three points last Sunday after Gary Kelly’s first half free-kick but after coming so close to their first victory there is no doubt that they will be determined to try and do it this Sunday. Rathkeale seem to be in unstoppable form and so I predict that they will extend their unbeaten league streak with another win this Sunday.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: Rathkeale.
Weekly Observer Division 1.
Breska Rovers vs AK United
Breska Rovers could come closer to the top spot of Division One should they pick up a victory against AK United this Sunday. A 4-1 away victory against Pallaskenry last Sunday made it four wins in a row for them and they will fancy their chances to make it five considering both their own and their opponent’s form as of late. Niall Quane and Josh Page were the source of three of their goals last Sunday with the two of them always seeming be on the scoresheet as does Ian O’Leary. It was five games without a victory for AK United following their loss to Rathkeale B last Sunday. With victories against Feenagh and Kildimo United to their name, it shows that they are capable of grinding out three points and were also able to hold this Sunday’s opponents to a 1-1 draw on the first day of the season. Their draw from earlier in the season would indicate that this game will be tight but I think Breska are playing fantastic as of late and are scoring all around them so I predict that they will move closer to pole position with a win on Sunday.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: Breska Rovers.
Granagh United vs Kildimo United
Granagh United will go back on top again should they overcome Kildimo United this Sunday. Granagh’s last victory against Abbeyfeale United B was a vital three points following their loss to Shannonside and another three this Sunday will ensure they stay in the hunt for the league title. With only one league loss to their name they have overcome almost all that have come before them including the previously mentioned Abbeyfeale United B, Glantine and Rathkeale B to name a few. They have only three clean sheets but that hasn’t stopped them as they have only lost three of their eleven games in all competitions. They have only lost one of their five home games which will definitely stand to them in this tie. Kildimo United suffered a 4-0 loss to Division Three’s Creeves Celtic in the Riedy Joinery Cup which made it two losses in a row for them. They will no doubt see those results as very disappointing considering the victories they picked up prior to them against Glantine and AK United. Granagh defeated Kildimo by a single goal when they last faced off on the second day of the season and I see them winning again this Sunday.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: Granagh United.
Rathkeale B vs Pallaskenry AFC
Rathkeale will look to continue their great recent form with a third win in a row when they host Pallaskenry. Following four successive defeats, Rathkeale B have really come back stronger as they defeated Feenagh and AK United to put themselves four points off of the dropzone with a game in hand and a win this Sunday will help them even more. Pallaskenry have not fared well as of late as they have only a draw to their name from their last five games. With just one league win so far this year against Kildimo United they will need three points this Sunday to help distance themselves from the relegation zone. Both sides played out a 3-3 draw on the second day of the season but Rathkeale B have hit their stride as of late and so I see them winning.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: Rathkeale B.
Weekly Observer Division 2.
Shountrade AFC vs Ballingarry B
Our only Division Two game of the weekend sees Shountrade face off against Ballingarry B in a big game for both of these low lying sides. Shountrade picked up their second win in a row last Sunday as Shane Reynolds led them to victory against Ferry Rangers with a hat-trick. A good result for Shountrade as Ferry Rangers are a very strong side despite being in the division below them. Declan Mullane was another scorer for his side on the day scoring a brace which made it five goals for him in his late two games so he will be another one to watch this Sunday. Shountrade have kept four clean sheets this season with their last one coming four games ago but they can combat that lack of shutouts with their scoring abilities as they have netted eleven from their last two games. Ballingarry B picked up their first win of the season at the start of November as they edged out Newcastle West Rovers B in a 2-1 home win but unfortunately had to give a walkover in their next game against Ferry Rangers. That win against Rovers showed what they are capable of and they will absolutely see this game on Sunday as one they can win with it being so close last time but Shountrade have hit fantastic form as of late and I think that they will continue with another win this Sunday.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: Shountrade.
Weekly Observer Division 3.
Feenagh B vs Ferry Rangers
We finish off this weekend’s preview with a Division Three game as Ferry Rangers bid to put themselves three points clear at the top of the table when they travel to Feenagh for the late kick off. Feenagh B were denied their first league win in their last game as Glantine B scored twice late in the game to cancel out Dan Shelton and Donal Madigan’s goals for it to finish as a draw. That was an unfortunate result for Feenagh but they can take solace in that draw along with their tie against Newcastle West B and close losses to Shountrade and Carrig Celtic B also. Ferry Rangers’ six game unbeaten streak was ended by Shountrade in the Riedy Joinery Cup Quarter Final last week in a 6-2 loss. It was a bad loss for the Tarbert based side but with them also being knocked out of the Richard Hogan Cup it does allow them to make their Division Three title bid their main focus. They have yet to lose in their league campaign recording wins against Carrig Celtic B and Newcastle West B along with draws against Creeves Celtic and Knockaderry which have ensured that they have stayed in the title hunt. This will only be Ferry’s third away game from their nine games this year but they have not lost either of their two previous away games and have recorded great results at home too so I see them getting the win on Sunday.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: Ferry Rangers.