Monksland United have really arrived at the top table of the Combined Counties Football League in recent years and are on course to win a second Senior Division title in three years.
When play was halted, United were top of the table on 22 points with Birr Town and Derry Rovers in hot pursuit. The Offaly teams have games in hand but points on the board are more important and Monksland have that advantage. Seven wins and a draw with just two defeats has United on top. It has been a successful few years for the Cushla Park outfit as they have finally shaken off their reputation as the nearly men.
With their roots in the old Carroll’s All Stars team, Monksland have made steady progress since their foundation. It is hard to believe from their current position that United have only been in the top flight for less than a decade. The junior football scene had been dominated by the big two of Willow Park and St Peters with Monksland well below the standard of their Athlone rivals until recently.
The Premier Division title was lifted in 2010 and slowly but surely, United made progress in the top flight. It was a long road to the top with many feeling that the team lacked the bite to compete with the best clubs in the Midlands. The critics were soon eating their words when the runners up slot in the Senior Division was secured in 2017 behind St Peters. It would take a final push to win the title but the dream came through the following year. A marvellous campaign under manager Colum McDaid saw the Reds face Clara Town on the first Wednesday of May in 2018 knowing that a win would secure a first ever Senior crown. Cushla Park was soon rocking as a hat trick from Cathal Callinan and a Conor Jordan goal saw off the Clara challenge.
There was little time to celebrate though as McDaid’s men had a date in the Paddy Cotter Cup final four days later. United were fancied to collect further silverware as they faced lower division opposition in the form of Derry Rovers. It was not to be though as the Edenderry outfit created a shock. The final looked to be heading for extra time but Rovers struck for a late winner.
Having won the title for the first time, Monksland now faced into the following season looking to retain the trophy. McDaid had stayed on as manager and further strengthened his squad but was soon to depart. The campaign started with a draw in Mountmellick and while Clara Town were well beaten in the first home game, the season was to end in disappointment on the domestic front with a lack of consistency proving fatal. Defeat to Mullingar Athletic in a seven goal thriller left Monksland playing catch up. Further losses at the end of the season to local rivals Ballinahown and Willow Park sealed their fate.
There was some consolation however, as the Counties Cup was lifted for the first time with the silverware continuing to arrive west of the Shannon. Philip Coffey had come in as manager and continued with his Midas’ touch. A single goal from Callinan against Mountmellick had Monksland in the final for the first time in the clubs history. Defeat in the semi-final of the Cotter Cup left United even more determined to lift the blue riband trophy. Stradbally Town provided the opposition in the final played in Tullamore. In a tense affair, two goals from David O’Brien and one from Kevin Brennan had the Monksland fans celebrating. To complete a successful season, Earl Gaylard received the player merit award.
The 2019/20 campaign has again seen Monksland to the fore and with the club fielding an under 17 team for the first time, the future looks bright for the Cushla Park outfit.