By EAMON SCOTT
THERE’S A MERE 296 DAYS since Malahide United defeated Newbridge Town at Gannon Park to claim their inaugural Leinster Senior League title.
It was a stellar night in the club’s history and the fireworks that were launched over nearby Paddy’s Hill as Roger Mahon presented the trophy to club skipper Darren Craven was a fitting backdrop as Ger Couglan’s squad celebrated a deserved success to a protracted season.
Tonight, Malahide United begin their defence of the crown with an away trip to a Bangor GG side in Greenhills and they will do so without the services of Craven who has since departed for Bray Wanderers although brother Gareth remains an influential member of the squad.
Manager Ger Coughlan is all too aware that as champions, Malahide united will be in many clubs’ crosshairs but he is stoic about that weight of expectancy and simply puts in down to going with the territory as title holders.
Malahide United were excellent value for their success last year and at the presentation last September LSL official Roger Mahon challenged the side to repeat the achievement and post back to back titles.
Difficult as that is and without the talents of Darren Craven that becomes a serious task to undertake. But, this Malahide side is still relatively young and will mature – of that there is no question.
With the scent of victory slowing drifting away from their nostrils. it remains to be seen just how much of an appetite the Gannon Park side have for the battle ahead.
Maynooth Town FC kicked off a return to football last night with a two-nil win over Wayside Celtic to signal the return to action with the Shane Harte managed side putting down an early marker for the season with an opening night win.
Goals from Eoin O’Neill and Jackson Ryan were enough to secure the first batch of points for a club in 10 months for the Conor Dunne skippered squad.
Covid-19 has, of course, thrown down it’s own challenge to the league and while everyone was subject to the same restrictions, some weathered the last 10 months better than others, the reality is that once the first whistle blows expect the 2021/2022 to be as competitive as any season that has gone before in the illustrious history of the top grassroots league outside of League of Ireland.
And we do so with a brand new sponsor on board in Permanent TSB. Like the Leinster Senior League they have a lot of history behind them but as a prime financial institution that has survived for close to 200 years, their pedigree like the LSL is not in doubt.
But as we emerge from Covid in a new era, we do so shorn of some of the league’s stellar managers. Gone is Martin Loughran, arguably the most successful manager in the history of the league to be replaced by James Lee. Lee, a UEFA Regions Cup winner in 2015 and a player with a vast experience in the league will now be tested as a coach but if his playing career is anything to go by, he can look forward to a stellar management career – but that’s all ahead of him and he knows that the high standard that the league consistently delivers will demand the best from each and every coach within the division.
Another luminary of the league is Pete Lennon – a great friend and adversary of Loughran is also gone from the ‘battle field’ and too will take up a position on the far side of the railings at Jackson Park as Wayside Celtic look to build on their strong finish to last season.
Despite last night’s reversal in Maynooth, Wayside Celtic club secretary Brendan Mitchell candidly admits: ” We have entered a new era in Wayside as Peter Lennon, Keith Arnold and Daragh Mulligan have retired as our management team. Peter and Co leave an unrivalled legacy behind having won everything there is to win in the ameateur game.”
Adds Mitchell: “Ross Zambra and Kenny Simpson have taken the reins and have signed a number of new exciting players. This includes a new goalkeeper in Dean Mahon from TEK United. Ian Coone (Defender) has rejoined us from Crumlin where he spent a season away.”
“The squad includes some experienced LSL players but the addition of Aaron Byrne and David Dalton signed from Cabinteely and Bray Under 19s respectively brings a new energy to the team. Ronan O’Kelly (Winger) has signed from Cabinteely whilst Emeka Onwubiko (Free Agent) and Dickson Olayanke are looking forward to their first season having joined over a year ago but yet to feature in a competitive fixture.”
While the club will miss Peter, Keith and Daragh having spent 27 successful years at the helm, it is an exciting new management team in place for the coming season.”
Another new man taking up the reins is Kieron Maher at Cherry Orchard. Rumours of the club’s struggle to put shape on the squad carried some substance but the experienced Maher along with Jack Darcy have immediately steadied matters for the Elmdale side and expect the Cherries to be a well organised and coached side as they look to return to their normal lofty perch within the division.
There’s a rebuilding challenge for Maher but he’s excited by the challenge and committed to giving youth a chance.
“After the League of Ireland Premier and First Division, the Leinster Senior League is the equivalent of the ‘Third Division’ but that’s still a tremendous platform to play at. You look at the clubs in the league and you look at the facilities they all have and they are top, top clubs, so it is a really good standard to play at.”
Kieran is the first to appreciate that his side will need to be competitive from the first game because of the quality and strength of opposition out there.
“You better believe it,” he says with a smile. “I’ve got to assemble a squad that can compete and I’ve gotta be hard to beat. Forget about 2-5-2s or wingbacks, I’ve gotta get a team to compete and be hard to beat.”
And he adds: “Maybe then we can start to concentrate on actually winning games.” First things first, let’s get things organised”
And Maher underlines the approach he is taking at Elmdale about attracting in new players. “The door is open for anyone who feels they would like to play for Cherry Orchard because it’s common knowledge we need players but we have a solid core and we will look to become competitive and if anyone wants to come down, I’d be delighted to talk to them about what we are trying to achieve here.”
“There are lots of guys who would only have played a couple of games at Under 19 in the League of Ireland and many of them have a lot to offer and we have a lot to offer them too.”
“A lot of these guys have been released and they don’t actually know what to do and I’d love to see some of them make their way down to Elmdale where we have top class facilities and a great coaching team in position. I don’t want them drifting away from football. There’s a great set-up here and a great opportunity to play at a top level.”
“It’s a massive league, a showcase league and I want to attract players who would like to compete at this really high level.”
“Instead of signing 37 or 38 year olds, get the kids in and let the league become a recognized springboard to the senior ranks,” insists Maher.
Bangor Greenhills Greenpark FC welcome champions Malahide United this evening with seasoned campaigner John Scott at the helm and here is a club that is quietly building a squad capable of challenging for the title.
The Bangor GG FC Secretary says: “All our players bar two returned to training and we have added great lads right throughout the three teams in the club.”
“Our management teams have seen some change this season with John Scott and Anto Fitzpatrick returning to be joined by previous successful player and UEFA coach Brian Warren on the first team coaching staff.
Innovative Club Goalkeeping Coach Kevin McCormack is back for the season as well. We have three former club legends coaching the Major Saturday squad Terry Gleeson Managing supported by Barry Burke and Paul Gannon all proven winners in the LSL and Ex League of Ireland players. Brian Greenhalgh the grandson of one of Bangor Celtic’s founding members the late great George Greenhalgh is managing our Premier 1 Sunday squad supported by Robbie Donohue and ex player Simon Kehoe. “
John Scott, General Manager was happy with our first season as the newly formed Bangor Greenhills Greenpark FC re-establishing ourselves in the top four and qualifying for The FAI Cup.
“We made good progress in our first season across all three teams. This is going to be a strange year with all the impacts of the dreaded Covid and its impact on clubs, communities and players. We all have had a tough 16 months, but football is back now and it’s great to have it for mental health , well being , community spirit etc
“It’s so important and we are looking forward to building on our progress made last season. We are a new club , who are working hard on and off the field to ensure all our players and young schoolboys / girls in the Greenhills and surrounding areas have access to football. “We could not do this without the support of many volunteers and club sponsors.
“A big shout out to our main sponsor Brian McElroy Funeral director Crumlin village and the likes of Permanent TSB and MG Hygiene who always support us.”
“We are part of the community and local sponsors like Garret Carey Autos , B and C fabrications , Vindr, AD Roofing and Paul Reid are crucial to our success.” I am excited about the season and welcoming the reigning League Champions to Greenhills park tonight.
“Congrats to everyone in Malahide United on a great season last year. I really hope we all follow the protocols , keep everyone safe and every club enjoys their season without any more lockdowns as we move on with the vaccination programme. Here’s to an exciting 21/22 season for everyone.”
Bangor GG Players Out
Bangor GG Players In
Alex O Callaghan
LAST season Maynooth Town finished fourth and have lofty ambitions to improve on that position which would indicate the club’s belief that they can be right in the mix at the business end of the season next May.
Looking to hit the ground running under a new management setup of Shane Harte manager , Ciaran Kilduff and Gavin Kinsella that’s exactly what they managed to achieve last night against the visitors from Jackson Park.
Club secretary Noel Dempsey was a busy man in the build-up and also ensuring that proper procedure and protocols were adhered to with the spotlight on the opening game on the new season
There have been changes but with a host of new signings, expect a different dimension to Maynooth this season. All you can ask for is a good start and that’s what they’ve managed to achieve with the club enjoying the fruits of victory today with a Golf Classic at Carton House which by all accounts have proved to be a great success.
Maynooth Town FC Players In
Eoin O Neill ,
Paddy O Sullivan.
Maynooth Town FC Players out
ST MOCHTA’S FC: CELEBRATE THEIR FAI INTERMEDIATE CUP WIN OVER KILLESTER DONNYCARNEY.
FAI Intermediate Champions St Mochta’s FC will be many peoples’ favourites to take the crown away from Malahide United.
Brian McCarthy has added to an already impressive squad and the Bradys arriving in from Crumlin as well as incomings from the Irish League will see them at short odds to deliver the league pennant back to Porterstown Road.
The Clonsilla club is now one of the leagues heavyweights and McCarthy now one of the more experienced managers with the exits of Loughran and Lennon. Many seasoned observers have installed them as early favourites and you know with the talent at the club’s disposal they are not going to too far off in the final shake-up.
Promoted Kilnamanagh FC host the Saints at Ned Kelly Park on Sunday morning and will be a serious test for the red and yellow shirts but Kilnamangh impressed with some sublime football on the way to promotion and will be looking to bed into the top flight.
Like Sacred Heart and Home Farm they’ll be no mugs and indeed will enhance the standing of he league given the three clubs’ excellent showing last season to gain promotion to the top table.
Regardless of where your allegiances lie, the simple attraction of being able to go out and watch live Leinster Senior League is a massive plus.
For players, managers and spectators alike the mental health and well being of all is important and the joy of a live game simply cannot be underestimated. The Permanent TSB Leinster Senior League is to be congratulated for their organisation and commitment in providing a proper pathway in a return to action.
Dave Moran, Tony Kearney, Pat Kiernan, Rocher Mahon, Dave Lalor and the rest of the LSL are to be congratulated on the massive effort they have put into get the league up and running one again.
It’s been difficult and unprecedented and you appreciate that sport had to take a back seat while society faced up to the challenge of Covid 19 and the global pandemic.
Abiding by proper return to play protocols, abiding by club guidelines and social distancing becomes as important as any single element that goes into arranging an LSL match – regarless of the division you operate from.
No one wants another lockdown and we are all concerned by the spread of the Delta variant. We can all play our part in a successful season by having a bit of cop on and doing what is right. Best of luck to everyone and to all the other divisions that are kicking off.
Haddon Park hosts and interesting clash between Killester Donnycarney and visitors Liffey Wanderers this evening. Both clubs have a strong success element to their DNA and with the right conditions, a good start and a modicum of luck they both have the potential to challenge for the title.
Declan Heavey is in from Maynooth to take over the Liffey reins from John Young while the experienced Gary Howlett always has his sides well set up and you have to work hard and earn your points if you are to take any of them back down the lane.
Home Farm head to Armagh Road to face Crumlin United on the back of a competitive 2-1 win over Rush Athletic midweek with Sean Goulding netting both of the Farm’s goal at St Catherine’s.
The men from Whitehall have managed to hold onto their promotion winning squad but can look forward to the imminent return to action of manager John Hand’s son Bradley.
Bradley has missed out on the whole of last season with a cruciate injury but has pre seasoned well and is included in the travelling match day squad. He has often been at the fulcrum of much of HF’s exciting play and the box to box player can also chip in with some excellent finishing himself and will be a decided asset to the Farm this season.
Amateur international David McGrath is also back in the blue and white hoops this season while Hand is also excited about Alex Prizeman whom he believes has that ‘X-Factor’ quality about him as a player.
Another player who has got the head down and pre seasoned well and is looking trim and fit is James Duff who was club skipper for three years.
“We’ll be competitive and we have a good bond within the squad and I know the lads are excited about playing at this level and we are really looking forward to the challenge ahead.”
The hype that has been generated around the start of the league on recent days has really impressed Crumlin United boss James Lee.
With a young squad under his reins, he’s been delighted in recent preseason games to see his stamp and style of play beginning to bed in and he’s excited.
“We had a good chat and I told them I’d really love to be in their position and the prospect of playing in this division. Some of these guys are going to get more coverage this season in the Leinster Senior League than they would in the League of Ireland but that’s a measure of where this league is at,” beamed Lee.
“The Leinster Senior League deserves a lot of praise for the efforts they have gone to in recent days promoting the league on social media and I’m really excited about the prospect of managing Crumlin United this season.”
A 4-3 win over Kilbarrack United and a 2-1 win over Glenville along with outings against St Pats Under 19s and Montpelier FC have Crumlin motoring well and Le has been encouraged by what he has seen.
“Our style of play is about playing football and it’s great to see your ideas coming to fruition on the field of play. I’ve been impressed with our workrate and I believe we have a squad capable of challenging. We had a talk last night and we’ve 24 players in the mix and while we have a couple of knocks through injury, we are committed to challenging for the league title.,” said Lee.
There might be a ‘gentle’ easing in of teams back to play but the frenetic rivalry and competitiveness will whet so many people appetite. It’s great to be back and we look forward to some cracking encounters between now and the end of a long awaited for season 2021-2022.
FRIDAY JULY 2
Senior Division Sunday: Killester Donnycarney FC v Liffey Wanderers FC, Hadden Park, 7.30pm,
Declan Troy Stuart Marry Dylan Armstrong;
Bangor GG FC v Malahide Utd.FC, Greenhills Park / Iveagh Grounds, 7.30pm, Barry Fitzpatrick Mark McConnell Anthony Kearney;
Crumlin Utd. FC v Home Farm FC, Pearse Park Astro / CBS Captains Road, 7.30pm, John McCarthy Dave Gallagher Anthony Carey
SUNDAY JULY 4
Kilnamanagh v St Mochta’s, Ned Kelly Park, 11am
FRIDAY JULY 9
Malahide United v Sacred Heart, Gannon Park, 7.45pm OFF
Liffey Wanderers v Edenderry Town, Irishtown Stadium, TBC
SUNDAY JULY 11
Wayside Celtic v Bangor GG, Jackson Park, 2.30pm
FRIDAY JULY 16
Bangor GG v Liffey Wanderers, Greenhills Park 7.30pm
Edenderry Town v Crumlin United, 7.45pm, Paddy Maloney Park,
Home Farm FC v Kilnamanagh FC, Whitehall, 7.30pm
St Mochtas v Wayside Celtic, Porterstown Road, 7.45.
Killester Donnycarney v Malahide United, Haddon Park, 7.30pm
SUNDAY JULY 18
Bluebell United v Cherry Orchard, PROV, 11am, Red Cow
Sacred Heart v Maynooth Town Uni, 11am, Killinarden Hill