Mayo League is ready to kick-off

Chasing the champions: Will anyone be able to catch Westport United this year. Photo: Michael Donnelly

Chasing the champions: Will anyone be able to catch Westport United this year. Photo: Michael Donnelly

For the 36 of the 40 teams spread over the four divisions in the Mayo League it all kicks off this weekend with the first round of fixtures down for decision. The summer soccer season is ready to go and things get moving in all four tiers with a bang on Saturday evening.

In the Super League the big question is ‘can anyone stop Westport United?’ The defending champions won the treble last season and only dropped two points over their 18 game league run, thanks to a draw against Straide and Foxford United in height of summer. While it would be an almost impossible task to do something similar this season or even go one better, they are deserving favourites to win the title again this season. On Sunday they will open their defence with a trip to Ballina Town, who finished in third place last year. There’s one big change to United this year, with James Fahy and Kieran Mulchrone stepping away from the dugout after their exit from the Connacht Junior Cup. They have been replaced by former League of Ireland player, John Brennan, who was appointed only last week. Brennan previously lined out for Galway United, Sligo Rovers, Shamrock Rovers, and Satlhill Devon, and also had a stint managing the Eamon Deacy Park outfit.

Westport United warmed up for their league season with a 2-0 win over Castlebar Celtic in the Liam McEntee Charity Shield in Milebush, with David Hoban and last year’s B team striker, Mark McNally, grabbing the goals in the win.

The defeated side in the game will be expected to be one of the main sides that will challenge United for the title this season, but they will have to up their game to make sure that Westport United don’t pull to far ahead of them early on.

Stevie Gavin’s side will open their campaign on Saturday evening when newly promoted Ballyglass come visiting to Celtic Park. The Candystripes were impressive last year in their promotion drive out of the Premier A division, and with new signing JP O’Gorman leading the line up front, they will pose a challenge to Celtic on the opening day.

The other promoted side from last year, Conn Rangers, are also in action on Saturday evening and they will host Iorras Aontaithe in Mount Falcon at 6pm. The visitors had a brilliant finish to last season where they put together a run of four wins on the bounce to pull themselves out of relegation trouble, and if they can carry that form into this season, they will be a outfit that will be more than capable of moving right up the standings in the table.

Manulla were also down to face Charlestown Athletic on Saturday night, but due to their involvement in the Connacht Junior Cup this weekend that game has been postponed, along with their B teams clash with Urlar United in the Premier B division. The last game in the opening round of the Super League is the meeting of Ballyheane and Straide and Foxford United in Quigley Park. The home side were kept busy through the winter with the Connacht Junior Cup, which they only exited a few weeks ago and they’ll be looking to put the right foot forward at home on Sunday.

Big battle to come up ahead

The race for the title last season in the Premier A went right down to the wire and this year there could be more of the same. Last season’s third placed side Westport United were only squeezed out of the title race on the last day of the season, and while they can’t get promoted, winning the title is something that they have targeted on again this season and they should come very close.

The two sides that got relegated from the Super League last season, Fahy Rovers and Moy Villa, should also be well equipped to have a crack at the title, with Fahy Rovers being a side that have gone up and down a couple of times in the last few years looking to bounce back up again. Of the other sides in this division, Claremorris could put on a real big promotion push, they had a spell of a couple of years in the Super League a few years ago and had a good finish to last season. Swinford are another outfit that will be looking to finish in the top two.

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