THE West Cork League PremierHiSpecCars.com Premier Division title-race is set to intensify over the Christmas and New Year period with five fixtures likely to have a huge bearing on the destination of the prestigious trophy.
At the time of writing, Dunmanway Town, Clonakilty AFC, Riverside Athletic, Togher Celtic and Drinagh Rangers are all within three points of one another at the top of an overcrowded Premier Division table.
Adverse weather conditions, unplayable pitches and multiple postponements have dogged the start of the 2015-16 West Cork League campaign but, on a more positive note, prevented any single club from pulling away at the summit of the Premier Division standings.
True, defending champions Drinagh Rangers have games in hand on their rivals but will need to rediscover and maintain the form that saw the Canon Crowley Park outfit lose just once before claiming last season’s title.
Clonakilty AFC are no strangers to the top echelons of the league having finished runner-up last term and the Ballyvackey club along with Dunmanway, Togher and Riverside appear to be Rangers’ biggest threat to claiming back-to-back championships.
Bunratty United and Skibbereen suffered disappointing starts to their respective campaigns but are each capable of taking points off the front-runners, suggesting an intriguing end-of-season battle with plenty of twists and turns before the champions are eventually crowned.
The outcome of the following fixtures – irrespective of when they are actually played – will be pivotal to a title-race not likely to be decided until the final weeks of the campaign.
Dunmanway Town v Drinagh Rangers – December 26th, 2015
These two great rivals are set to cross swords on St Stephen’s Day in Mohona, a game certain to attract a large attendance. Last season’s corresponding fixture ended in a thrilling 3-3 draw at the same venue and if this month’s encounter is half as exciting then supporters of both clubs are in for a Christmas treat.
Clonakilty AFC v Dunmanway Town – January 10th, 2016
The Inchydoney-based side is enjoying another positive start and are currently tied on 13 points at the the table whilst MyGaff.ie Cup holders, Dunmanway, have accrued ten points from a possible 15. Town inflicted a 3-1 defeat on Clonakilty AFC back in October thanks to an own goal plus Patrick McCarthy and Mark Quinn strikes. That result means the return game in Mohona will be an even more significant fixture for two sides capable of challenging for the title and where Clon won 2-1 last season.
Riverside Athletic v Drinagh Rangers – February 14th, 2016
A St Valentine’s Day showdown between two of the Premier Division’s most attack-minded teams will be an occasion to savour. Athletic are undefeated after their first five outings with a scoreless draw away to Clonakilty the only blemish on an otherwise prefect record. Irrespective of form, Riverside’s title credentials will face their sternest test from a Drinagh team chasing two-in-a-row and on a ground the champions were fortunate to escape with a 1-0 victory on their previous visit.
Skibbereen v Togher Celtic (yet to be scheduled)
An experienced Togher Celtic team may have lost twice already this year but an impressive victory over Dunmanway Town plus a 2-2 draw at Canon Crowley Park underlines their championship credentials. Celtic hammered an out of sorts Skibbereen 7-2 at the beginning of September, raising the stakes for their return trip to the Baltimore Road ground later in the season.
Togher Celtic v Clonakilty AFC (yet to be scheduled)
A 3-3 draw in last season’s corresponding fixture suggests another high-scoring encounter awaits when these two sides meet up next year. Togher took four points off Clonakilty and subsequently dented their 2014-15 title ambitions which is why the Ballyvackey side must reverse that trend to remain in contention this time around.