Monksland United well placed to contend for CCFL senior division honours in 2022

The Senior Division of the Combined Counties Football League was dominated for years by the then big two in Athlone, Willow Park and fierce rivals St Peters.

Willow lifted the League title eight years in a row before the Saints halted the remarkable run with titles of their own in 2016 and 2017.

The old guard then changed with the emergence of a third force in town as Monksland United won their first title in 2018, but Willow were back on top the following season when they edged out Ballinahown.

St Peters had by now departed for a new challenge in the Roscommon League and the traditional rivalry in Athlone came to a temporary halt and it is now left to Willow and Monksland to fly the flag for Athlone with Ballinahown, on the outskirts, hoping to break the urban monopoly.

The Athlone teams' grip on the top-flight title ended in 2020 when Offaly team's Birr Town and Derry Rovers finished winners and runners-up respectively. Another Westmeath team are currently setting the pace with Mullingar Town holding the only unbeaten record in the division.

It is tight at the top though and Monksland are well placed to mount a challenge in the new year. Tony O’Sullivan's charges are just three points off the leaders with the same number of games played. United have done well this season on the national stage with extended runs in both the FAI Junior Cup and the Leinster FA Junior Cup.

They were unlucky to make their exit from the latter competition in their last outing before Christmas at Cushla Park. Experienced campaigners Freebooters FC from Kilkenny were the visitors and made the most of defensive errors to advance to the next round.

Willow Park now have their first team in action in the Leinster Senior League so what is in effect their second team line out in the CCFL. The going is tough and Michael Harney's men are near the foot of the table, although well ahead of basement boys Tullamore Town.

Last time out, Clara Town were the visitors to DPD Park and inflicted a five-nil thrashing on the hapless hosts. Ballinahown have recovered from an indifferent start to get their act together in recent games and with just a few points separating the top teams, Noel Harris and company cannot be ruled out of contention for honours.

Birr and Clara pose the main danger to the Westmeath dominance. The draw for the Counties Cup has also been favourable to all three local teams.

The women’s division has proved extremely competitive in recent years and Willow Park are currently setting the pace in the Premier Division. Jenny Madden's girls have only tasted defeat on one occasion thus far with seven wins recorded from eight games played.

They hold a significant advantage over their rivals but, with more games played, know they must keep their good run going. Most recently, they were in knockout action where they put seven past Terenure Rangers in the Leinster Junior Cup.


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