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The seven games that will decide the battle for the Premier Division crown

Friday, 11th January, 2019 6:00pm

Story by Ger McCarthy
The seven games that will decide the battle for the Premier Division crown

Lyre Rovers’ Kieran Fitzpatrick in a race for the ball with Drinagh Rangers’ Keith Jajoe and Paul Hickey.

Ger McCarthy looks at some of the big matches coming up in the WCL Premier Division title race

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JUST two points separate the top five title-chasing clubs in the 2018-19 PremierHiSpecCars.com West Cork League Premier Division heading into the business end of the season.

One of the most intriguing Premier Division title races for many years is set to unfold over the coming months. 

Dunmanway Town, Ballydehob, Togher Celtic, Drinagh Rangers and Lyre Rovers are all vying for the West Cork League’s top prize and separated by just two points.  

A clutch of fixtures could decide the trophy’s destination before the West Cork League concludes on March 10th. Here are some of the games that will shape the business end of what has already been a terrific season.

Sunday, January 13th – Lyre Rovers v Dunmanway Town: Averaging 2.5 goals per game, current leaders Dunmanway have enjoyed an impressive campaign and sit top of the table with only five league fixtures to play. The Mohona club has lost only once on the road all season, a 2-1 defeat at the hands of rivals Drinagh Rangers, but face a stringent test at last year’s league and Beamish Cup runners-up Lyre Rovers. Victory for Rovers would see the Lyre club leapfrog Dunmanway and reignite Willie Griffin and Tom Barry’s side’s title challenge.

Sunday, January 13th – Bunratty United v Drinagh Rangers: Defending champions and newly crowned Celtic Ross Hotel Sports Team of the Year winners Drinagh Rangers have yet to taste defeat in the Premier Division. The Canon Crowley Park side has drawn seven of their eleven outings and cannot afford any slip-ups in Schull this weekend. Newly promoted Bunratty suffered a setback in their bid to move out of the bottom half of the table at Clonakilty Town a fortnight ago but will fancy their chances on their home pitch against the 2018 double-winners.

Sunday, February 3rd – Lyre Rovers v Drinagh Rangers: A repeat of the 2018 Beamish Cup final and between two of the West Cork League’s most talented squads should deliver another entertaining encounter in Lyre at the beginning of February. The sides previously met in the Premier Division back in October with Aidan Collins cancelling out a Barry O’Driscoll (H) header to earn Rovers a share of the points. In such a close title race, a draw will be of little when the rivals meet up again next month so expect sparks to fly and plenty of goals.

Sunday, March 3rd – Ballydehob v Togher Celtic: Two of the surprise packages in this season’s Premier Division title race will face one another in a pivotal league game at the start of March. Ballydehob and Togher Celtic are currently joint-second in the standings on 20 points apiece. Celtic have played two games more than the four other title-chasers and require maximum points from their remaining fixtures to have any chance of becoming champions. It ended 2-2 when the sides last met and an equally close game is anticipated on March 3rd.

Niall Hurley, David Mawe, Johnny Kelly and Kevin Cotter have scored some important goals for Togher this season and will be expected (if available) to find the net in the closing weeks of the campaign. Ballydehob’s hopes of causing a few upsets rest on Mark Cronin, Peter O’Driscoll, Sacsha Walden and Sean Minihane’s shoulders.

Sunday, March 3rd – Dunmanway Town v Drinagh Rangers: A Premier Division fixture of equal importance is scheduled for the same afternoon that Ballyedhob and Togher Celtic meet in Rathravane. Dunmanway Town and Drinagh Rangers’ local derby at Mohona already has the look of a potential title-decider. 

These teams know one another well having produced some cracking games over the past number of seasons. The clubs faced off back on November 11 at Canon Crowley Park where Aidan O’Donovan netted for Town but a Keith Jagoe brace of goals secured Drinagh a vital 2-1 win. In all likelihood, Dunmanway will need three points to have a chance of denying Rangers a second consecutive league crown.

Sunday, March 10th – Dunmanway Town v Lyre Rovers: The final weekend of Premier Division action sees Lyre Rovers travelling to Mohona, a return league game in which both clubs will hope their title challenge is still alive. Mark Buckley, Cathal Daly, Rhys Coakley and Barry O’Donovan have been amongst Dunmanway’s standout performers in 2018 and crucial to Town’s hopes of annexing the Premier Division trophy. Lyre will look to Johnny Leahy, Gearoid Barry, Jack Cowhig and Michael Keohane for inspiration on the last Sunday of the season.

Sunday, March 10th – Drinagh Rangers v Ballydehob: Will there be yet another trophy presentation and champagne corks flying at Canon Crowley Park in early March? Only time will tell but right now, the undefeated champions are hitting form at the right time and still involved in the Munster Junior Cup. 

Ballydehob could yet enter the final weekend of the campaign with something to play for but their experience of previous title-winning seasons suggests Drinagh are best placed to reign at the top of the West Cork League for the second season running.