FAI Umbro Junior Cup 6th Round (extra time & penalties if required).
Abbeyfeale United vs Navan Cosmos FC
Our big game of the weekend sees the unbeaten Abbeyfeale United host Navan Cosmos in the last 32 of the FAI Junior Cup. Abbeyfeale United have been flawless this season with nineteen games in all competitions and zero losses. Their Munster Champions Trophy victory was a massive accomplishment for them defeating a host of Premier Division Champions from their respective leagues before going on to defeat one of the biggest clubs in Ireland in St. Michael’s in the final. in the FAI Junior Cup they have proven their worth also defeating Rathkeale, Glin Rovers, Killarney Athletic and Kildrum Tigers in previous rounds. Their fitness and athleticism is one of their biggest advantages and one that allowed them to pull off a famous victory in extra time against St. Michael’s with youthful players including Cormac Roche, Chris and Paudie Smith being some great examples. Barry Sheehy is a real goal threat up front while Joe Kelliher boasts great experience and heart that makes him hard to beat in the middle of the park. The home advantage is a huge factor at this stage of the competition especially when the opposing side must travel from Meath with Abbey’s 5-0 victory against Kildrum Tigers in the previous round showing how effective it can be. Navan Cosmos hail from Meath where they play in the North East Football League. They have have recorded good results on their way to this stage of the competition also defeating Mid Sutton Sportslink FC, Duleek FC, Baldoyle Grange FC and Crettyard United. Outside of the national competition they pulled off a shock 2-0 win over the reigning FAI Junior Cup champions Sheriff YC in the Leinster Senior Cup and they will see themselves as being capable of winning in Abbeyfeale with that result under their belt. Two players to look out for with Navan are Colm Carney and Conor Walsh who scored three and four goals respectively in their 7-0 triumph against Ardee Celtic and Carney was on the mark also in their penalty shootout loss to Thomastown United of Kilkenny. The visitors go into this tie as favourites but I feel that despite their result against Sheriff and talented individual players that Abbeyfeale United will advance.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: Abbeyfeale United.
Weekly Observer Premier Division.
Ballingarry AFC vs Rathkeale AFC.
Ballingarry host league leaders Rathkeale in our first Premier Division game of the weekend. Ballingarry picked up a big three points last Sunday with a 3-1 home win against Glin Rovers and they will want to use that momentum to pull off a shock against the unbeaten table toppers. Ballingarry’s games have been relatively low scoring this year with them only scoring as high as three goals twice and only have nine goals from seven games but these low numbers have been enough for them to pull off wins against Athea United and Glin Rovers as well as a good draw against Newcastle West Rovers. They will hope that their relatively good home form of five wins and three losses will help them overcome a side who seem to play excellently regardless of whether they are at home or away. The visitors picked up a massive three points when they defeated Broadford United 2-0 thanks to a Declan Nash Masterclass and they will be looking to make it a perfect ten wins in the league this Sunday. That marked their fourth clean sheet in the league this season and their sixth in all competitions which makes them seem almost unbeatable when combined with their four goals scored per game average in the league. They have been stellar this year winning their games by sizable margins for the most part with wins against Broadford United, Newcastle West Rovers and Carrig Celtic to name a few. Rathkeale were emphatic 8-1 winners the last time these two teams met and I see Rathkeale winning again this Sunday.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: Rathkeale AFC.
Glin Rovers vs Carrig Celtic.
One of the toughest games off the weekend sees Glin Rovers take on Carrig Celtic in a game that could go either way. Glin Rovers lost 3-1 at the hands of Ballingarry on Sunday which made it two losses in a row and four games without a win and despite them sitting sixth in the table they find themselves only three points above the drop zone. Glin will see this home fixture as a fantastic opportunity for them to return to winning ways with them being a force to be reckoned with at home and extremely difficult to beat. Glin have faced strong sides such as Abbeyfeale United twice at home and have held them to a draw in the league and only lost out in extra-time in their Munster Junior Cup meeting. Rathkeale have felt the wrath of Glin at home also having came out with a close 2-1 win while Broadford United have been the biggest winners at this ground winning by a two goal margin in their 4-2 victory. Glin are a good team too with two fine examples being the young Karl O’Sullivan along with Michael Stack in between the sticks so this is a game that they are capable of winning. Carrig Celtic picked up their second win in a row and their second away from home also as they edged out Killeaney and a win this Sunday will move them closer to the top four of the league table. Following some poor results Carrig have turned their luck around in recent games and seem to be returning to their great form that saw them record well earned wins against Newcastle West Rovers and Ballingarry back in October. They face into their fourth away game in a row this Sunday and will enter it with no doubt in their mind that they can take a result with two wins from their last three on the road and five wins from eight in all competitions. As previously mentioned this is a game that could be won by either side and is a very difficult one to call. It was 0-0 between these two sides when they met in Carrig but I feel that Carrig will make amends for that draw with three points on Sunday.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: Carrig Celtic.
Killeaney vs Broadford United.
Killeaney face off against Broadford United in Knockdown in a game that sees two side wanting to recover from their losses last weekend. Killeaney’s quest for their first win of the season continues following a 2-1 loss to Carrig Celtic last Sunday and they face another tough challenge with the visit of Broadford United. With just two draws from eleven games and five goals to their name in all competitions, not a lot has gone right for Killeaney this season. They were unfortunate to have to share the points with Glin Rovers at the beginning of December but they will have to use that draw as motivation for other games as they look to get out of the relegation zone. Broadford United fell to a 2-0 loss at the hands of Rathkeale last weekend and they will be dying to get back on track with a win on Sunday. They can take pride in the fact that their three league losses this year have come at the hands of the three other teams that make up the top four which are Abbeyfeale United, Newcastle West Rovers and Rathkeale while they have not been phased by the other sides in their division with three 2-0 wins against Ballingarry, a great 4-2 away win against Glin Rovers and two wins over their opponents this Sunday being a few examples in all competitions. Broadford are undoubtedly one of the best sides in the Desmond League and I see them proving it again with a win on Sunday
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: Broadford United.
Newcastle West Rovers vs Newcastle West AFC.
We saved the best until last in the Premier Division as our final game sees the Newcastle West derby taking place as Newcastle West Rovers take on Newcastle West AFC. Rovers make their return to the Desmond League following the Christmas break where they will be looking to record a third win in a row following two very convincing victories over Athea United and Carrig Celtic in late December. At second position in the league table, they find themselves seven points away from first placed Rathkeale so they will have to keep their dropped points to a minimum if they are to overtake them. They are another side who have rarely put a foot wrong this year defeating Broadford United, Carrig Celtic and Glin Rovers as well as drawing with Abbeyfeale United. With six wins from seven in Woodfield, it goes without saying that they are a hard team to topple on their home turf but form can often times be irrelevant when it comes to these derby games as both sides will up for the contest. Newcastle West AFC sit second from the bottom in the league table and are seeking to end a two game losing streak following defeats against Rathkeale and Abbeyfeale United. This is another big game for them and one that they will be really amped up for as they try to escape the relegation zone and maintain their Premier Division status along with having the bragging rights of winning the local derby game. Their win and draw against Killeaney and Glin Rovers respectively are two signs of just how capable they are and they have some some notable players also with Van Mambouana and Tony Quaid being fantastic players that would make any team around. Despite their contrasting league positions I see this being a very close game but with Newcastle West Rovers making very few errors throughout the year I see them taking the bragging rights with a win.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: Newcastle West Rovers.
Weekly Observer Division 1.
Breska Rovers vs AK United.
Our first Division One game sees Breska Rover face off against AK United. Breska did not kick off 2017 in a way that they would have hoped as Granagh United put three past them without reply so a win on Sunday will be needed if they are to continue their promotion push. They have been one of the better teams in their division outside of that with their three losses coming against quality opposition in the previously mentioned Granagh United along with Shannonside and Abbeyfeale United B. They have been for the most part dominant in their wins with big scoreline victories occurring twice against Pallaskenry and once each against Glantine and Feenagh. They face a side that they had to share the points with last time around but they have improved a great amount since then and will see this as a winnable game considering their opponents have not fared as well. AK’s last outing ended in a loss to Granagh United also which has made it six games since they last gathered a win. They sit seventh in the table and will really want to end this this tough run they are having but with just a draw from six away games they will have a task on their hands if they are to end it this Sunday. Breska are a strong side who still remain in the hunt for promotion and I see them winning this game.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: Breska Rovers.
Granagh United vs Glantine.
First takes on third as Granagh United play Glantine in our biggest Division One game of the weekend. Granagh are in the midst of a four game win streak and do not look like stopping anytime soon with 14 goals scored, two goals conceded and two clean sheets. Their only league loss has come at the hands of Shannonside who have yet to be defeated and have grabbed results against everyone else including their opponents this Sunday who they beat 5-2 earlier in the season. With six wins out of seven at home they have turned their home ground into a fortress and it will be a real challenge for Glantine to return home with a result. With that said Glantine have done well as of late with their 1-0 win against Feenagh being the fourth game without a loss as well as their third clean sheet from their last four so this Sunday might be the best time for them to face the league leaders. Glantine are a side with great experience in the likes of Hessler O’Connor and fantastic youth in Cian Larkin who is a prospect for his side. Their away form has been decent this year with three wins, two draws and two losses but they have failed to win their last three and so will want to erase that statistic. Granagh United have beaten almost all that has come before them including Glantine so I see them winning again this Sunday.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: Granagh United.
Kildimo United vs Rathkeale B.
Kildimo United take on Rathkeale B in another game between two almost equal sides. Kildimo United have failed to record a win from their last four games and will look to return to the highs that they hit in November when they defeated AK United 5-1 in the Riedy Joinery Cup. They ran Shannonside very close in their 3-2 loss in Borrigone but have had poor showings too like their 4-0 home loss to Creeves Celtic. They will look to complete the double over Rathkeale B having come out on top earlier in the year on a 4-2 scoreline and it will be essential if they are to move out of the relegation zone. Rathkeale B have not been having much luck as of late either with a point from their last three games with them holding Pallaskenry to a 5-5 draw, losing 5-2 to Glantine and narrowly losing out to Abbeyfeale United B in Holycross. Despite great wins against Feenagh, AK United and Abbeyfeale United B they find themselves five points ahead of Kildimo United who possess a game in hand to their advantage so a win would ease a lot of pressure for them. Despite only one win from seven at home, Kildimo is a tough place to go to for a result and Rathkeale B will have to earn it there and I feel that they will with a win on Sunday.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: Rathkeale B.
Pallaskenry AFC vs Feenagh.
Lastly we travel to Pallaskenry for a relegation six-pointer with Pallaskenry taking on Feenagh for the third time this season. Pallas go into this game with their 5-5 draw with Rathkeale B in mind in a game where they should have taken all of the points if it were not for the opposition scoring an injury time penalty so they will look to grab their second league win this season on Sunday against a side that they have been very close to in past games. Alan O’Donnell has been one source of goals for his side in the past and was on the mark in their first game against Feenagh which finished 2-2. Their draws with Feenagh and Rathkeale B as well as a victory over Kildimo United has been a glimmer of what this side can do which shows that they have what it takes to go toe to toe with teams. Feenagh were denied a draw against Glantine who broke the deadlock late into the second half with a penalty and they will see this game on Sunday as a great opportunity to pick up a win considering they defeated them in their last encounter. Despite their low position in the league table they are better than what they seem having defeated Division One leaders Granagh United in the Riedy Joinery Cup along with a win and draw against Kildimo United and Pallaskenry respectively in the league. They are a difficult side to beat at times and have lost out by a single goal on five different occasions and so I think that Feenagh will show their toughness by grinding out their second league win.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: Feenagh.
Weekly Observer Division 2.
Adare United vs Newcastle West Rovers B.
Adare United will look to recover from defeat with three points on Sunday when they take on Newcastle West Rovers B. Adare succumbed to their heaviest defeat this season as Ballysteen beat them 4-0 last week and they will need three points on Sunday if they are to keep their title hopes alive as they currently sit joint top with Ballysteen who have two games in hand to their advantage. It’s worth noting that was only their third loss of the season (one of which occurred in a penalty shootout) and they have still proven their worth against the rest of the division with seven convincing league victories against a host of great sides. Their high goal scoring average of three goals per game has been their best trait as their wins seem to never be close calls including their last game against Newcastle West Rovers B where they ran out 4-1 victors. The visitors on Sunday shared the points in a 3-3 draw against Rockhill Rovers on Sunday which extended their streak of games without a win to five. Rovers will have a challenge on their hands if they are to break that streak against a side like Adare but like most B sides they have great youth in their team with good fitness which will be of great help in this game. James Guina has been mentioned several times before but it’s worth mentioning him again as he is a real danger man for his side. A player who bury a can shot from a dead ball and is just as lethal in play, he will need to be carefully watched by Adare if they are to ensure they return to winning ways. Adare will be out to make up for last week’s loss and with Rovers only having two wins from six away from home I see Adare picking up the victory.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: Adare United.
Askeaton AFC vs Ballysteen AFC.
Ballysteen will look to continue their great run with another win on Sunday as they face a trip to Askeaton. Ballysteen recorded a fantastic 4-0 victory last Sunday to put themselves joint top with two games in hand over Adare United and a win on Sunday against another side who are not too far behind would be a massive step towards the league title. Ballysteen have picked up two wins in a row following Sunday with both of them being by four goal margins so they are really doing well for themselves and they will see it as an opportunity to make it three in a row when they face the side that they defeated 6-1 on the second day of the season. John O’Shaughnessy has been racking up a lot of goals as of late with one against Adare United and three the week prior against Bally Rovers and he will want to add more goals to his tally on Sunday. Ballysteen only have a loss and a draw from their five games away from their home grounds so they will be confident entering this one. Askeaton go into this contest off the back of their fourth win in a row against Bally Rovers on Sunday and will look to make it even tighter at the top with a fifth win this weekend. Askeaton have done very well in Pairc Eas Geitine this season with four wins and two losses from their six games with one of their defeats being at the hands of the high flying Abbeyfeale United. Askeaton’s form has changed as the season has progressed with victories over St. Ita’s, Newcastle West Rovers B and Adare United as well as losses to Knockaderry and Rockhill Rovers. Ballysteen recorded a great victory the last time they took on Askeaton and while I don’t see the winning margin being five goals, I do see them picking up three points.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: Ballysteen.
Shountrade AFC vs Rockhill Rovers.
Sixth takes on seventh as Shountrade take on Rockhill Rovers in what should be a close game. Shountrade will be playing their first game since before Christmas and will be hoping to continue their four game win streak with a fifth on Sunday. Shountrade have enjoyed a good season so far with eight wins, two draws and four losses in all competitions and go into their seventh home game with just one loss in Kiltannan. They have some fantastic wins under their belt against the likes of Bally Rovers, Newcastle West Rovers B, Glin Rovers B as well as a draw with Askeaton so it goes without saying that they are more than capable of grabbing results. Rockhill picked up their first result away from home as they shared the points with Newcastle West Rovers B in Woodfield. Their away form has really let them down this year with six losses and a draw in their seven games on the road which is in contrast to their home form where they have three wins, two draws and two losses. With a win over Askeaton and a draw with Ballysteen, it shows that they can pick up the points against stiff competition. It was a 0-0 stalemate when they met in Rockhill’s backyard but I see Shountrade taking three points on Sunday.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: Shountrade AFC.
St. Ita’s vs Bally Rovers.
Our final Division Two game of the weekend sees St. Ita’s take on Bally Rovers in Ashford. Following a walkover from Ballingarry B last week, St. Ita’s will be facing into their first game of 2017 and will be hopeful of making it fours wins in a row considering they edged out Rovers by a single goal in Ballyhahill earlier in the season. Their last two games have seen them score eight goals and only concede one which can be attributed to their fantastic defense and their forwards who have been consistent throughout the season. They have averaged two goals per game this year but have scored four on four different occasions so they can be ruthless at times. Their win against Ballysteen before Christmas in the Richard Hogan Cup was a big result for them and they will be sure to use that as motivation for this contest. Bally Rovers will be looking to end a two game losing streak when they travel to Ashford following losses to Askeaton and Ballysteen. With them only losing 1-0 in their first encounter, Rovers will still be optimistic about taking away the three points. Outside of recent games they have shown what they are capable of, defeating Askeaton on the first day of the season as well as two victories over Rockhill Rovers. They have only recorded two wins from their six away games, losing by four or more on two of those occasions, which is not a favourable statistic going into a game against a side who have become stronger on their home grounds. St. Ita’s seem to be playing well as of late and so I see them picking up the victory on Sunday which is St. Ita’s day coincidentally.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: St. Ita’s.
Weekly Observer Division 3.
Glantine B vs Carrig Celtic B.
We jump into our first of two Division Three games with a game between two reserve sides as Glantine B host Carrig Celtic B. Glantine will be looking for their first victory of the season this Sunday as will want to bounce back from their 2-0 defeat at the hands of Ferry Rangers. Prior to that defeat Glantine B had grabbed two great results with home draws against Feenagh B and Knockaderry and with this fixture set for their home grounds they will be that bit more confident in themselves heading into this one. Glantine B have slowly improved as the season has progressed despite not recording wins but a win against one of the top sides of the division would be a great way to pick up their first. Carrig Celtic B will be out for a win this Sunday with their 6-1 loss to Newcastle West B last weekend denting their promotion hopes. They are no doubt a good side despite that result with two wins over Knockaderry and a 3-0 home win against their opponents this Sunday. Carrig have done okay away from home with two wins, a draw and two losses while Glantine seem to save their best for their home fixtures. I see Carrig taking the points here but I do not expect Glantine to make it easy for them.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: Carrig Celtic B.
Knockaderry vs Creeves Celtic
Our last game sees two promotion contenders face off in a game that both sides need to win and neither can afford to lose as Knockaderry take on Creeves Celtic. Knockaderry returned to form last Sunday with a 1-0 victory away to Feenagh B and will be looking to keep themselves in the hunt for one of the two vital places at the top of the table with a win against a side that they have had good luck against previously. Knockaderry’s results have fluctuated throughout the season with them being unable to go any farther than three games unbeaten. With four wins, two draws and five losses this season things have not been going their way entirely but they have still pulled it out of the bag with wins against Askeaton and Creeves Celtic to name two. Knockaderry will be going into their eighth home game of the season with their own backyard being a place that they have always given the opposition trouble having only lost by a single goal in their two home league losses along with holding league leaders Ferry Rangers to a draw. Their contests have been relatively tame affairs as they have only scored ten and conceded eight in eight games but they will struggle to keep it quiet against a side like Creeves. The visitors will be hoping to start off 2017 with another win with their last victory before Christmas making it four wins on the bounce for them. Creeves see themselves in a good position in the league table to return to Division Two as they sit one point behind second placed Newcastle West B with a game in hand so a win here would be huge. Creeves Celtic are a high scoring side and always have been with them averaging three goals scored per game in the league and while their conceding of goals was a problem at the start of the year they have overcome it in recent times with their first two clean sheets coming in their last four games against sides one and two divisions above them. Knockaderry scored three second half goals to steal the three points in their last game in Newbridge but Creeves have learned a lot since then so I see them taking the points and moving into second place.
StoppageTime.ie Prediction: Creeves Celtic.