Following a longer than normal winter break this season, The Combined Counties Football League gets back to full action this weekend with a full programme of fixtures.
The month of January was not completely without football however as the League introduced their new Futsal Cup competition.
Although all of the League’s clubs did not enter teams, those that did found the competition very enjoyable and helped them with some of the skills of the game like first touch control and short accurate passing.
This competition will have a permanent place on the Leagues calendar and it is expected that the take up next season will be much higher.
The Cup final takes place next Sunday and there will be Laois interest when Mountmellick United take on Raharney.
Mountmellick will go into the game has clear favourites, but Raharney have been improving as the competition progressed and will put up strong opposition.
The Domestic campaign resumes with most of the remaining Counties Cup 2nd Round games taking place. This is a competition that is completely up for grabs this season with last years winners Birr Town already out of the competition along Premier Division rivals Willow Park and Ballinahown. Clara Town, Monksland Utd and Derry Rovers are all safely through to the third round and will fancy their chances of going all the way to the final.
Others that cannot be ruled out include Division 1 Saturday leaders Camlin Utd who play another in form team Gentex in a refixed 2nd round tie. Division 1 teams Clonaslee Utd, Gallen Utd, Towerhill Rovers and last years beaten finalists Rosenallis will also be aiming to progress to the May decider.
February will also see another round of the Paddy Cotter Cup and CCFL Shield taking place with Divisional Cup action also getting underway later in the month. So every team in the League still has something to play for during the spring months.
In League action some Divisions are taking shape while others are completely up for grabs.
This is no more so the case than the Premier Division. Only one point separates the top five teams, although Willow Park have a small advantage over their rivals having played one or two games less than Clara, Monksland, Birr and Derry Rovers. At the other end of the table the competition is equally tight with Tullamore, Mullingar Athletic, Ballinahown and Mountmellick Utd all locked together in the fight to avoid finishing in the bottom two.
Division 1 Sunday is another Division that looks like going to the wire. Following a good run of results before the break Walsh Island Shamrocks look to be in the best position. Next Sundays top of the table game against Highfield is a very important game for both sides. Clonaslee Utd and possibly even Rosenallis and Gallen Utd have not completely lost interest either, but it will require a good run of form combined with other results going their way for any of these teams to come out on top.
Division 2 also looks done and dusted with Gentex FC on the cusp of taking the title. It is only a matter of when the Athlone men get over the line following an unbeaten run from day one.
Division 3 has four teams vying for ultimate glory. BBC Utd currently lead the way, but Banagher Utd and Kinnegad Juniors are in close pursuit. All three should keep a close eye on Cloneygowan Celtic who enjoyed a good run of results just before the break.
Division 4 is another Division that has a clear leader and at this stage it would take a brave man to bet against Abbeyleix Athletic coming out on top. They will have to be on their toes though and any slipup will be monitored by Maryborough, Clara Town and Mountmellick Celtic who are best positioned to mount a late challenge.
In Youths competitions, Cup action will get underway in a few weeks time. Before that however there are some important League games to be played. In the Under 17 Premier Division Emo Celtic have set themselves up nicely for the run in following good victories over their closest rivals before Christmas. Portlaoise, Abbeyleix and St Francis Athlone will compete to the end, but have some ground to make up.
So for all teams involved there will be an exciting three or four months of football with every team still in the hunt for silverware and some teams involved on several fronts with important games coming up every week in the quest for ultimate honours.
Saturday February 2nd
All games at 2.00 unless stated
Under 17 Division
Willow Park v Portlaoise; Willow Park Athlone; Midlands
St Francis v Emo Celtic; Iona Park Athlone; Midlands
Abbeyleix Ath v MMullingar Ath; Fr Breen Park Abbeyleix; Offaly
Under 17 Division 1
Clara Town v Mullingar Ath; Stanley O’Hara Park Clara; Offaly
Horseleap Utd v Rosenallis; Horeleap Village; Offaly
Under 19 Division
Mullingar Ath v Edenderry Town; Gainstown Mullingar; Midlands
Kinnegad Juniors v Willow Park; Lagan Park Kinnegad; Offaly
Temple Villa v Tullamore Town; TP Hickey Park Mount Temple; Offaly
Combined Counties Cup 2nd Round
Tullamore Town v St Aengus; 7.00; Leah Victoria Park Tullamore; Offaly
Division 1 Saturday
Colmcille Celtic v Castlepollard Celtic; The Rock Aughnacliffe; Midlands
Dynamoe Rooskey v UCL Harps; Kilrustan Sports Park Strokestown; Midlands
Gaels Utd v Ballymahon; The Hill Bawn Drumlish; Midlands
Sunday February 3rd
All games at 11.00 unless stated
CCFL Futsal Cup Final
Mountmellick Utd v Raharney Utd; Sports Complex Mountmellick; Offaly
John Farrell Combined Counties Cup 2nd Round
Kenagh Utd v Moate Celtic; The Mall Complex, Longford; Midlands
Gallen Utd v Stradbally Town; Brosna Press Park, Ferbane; Midlands
FC Killoe v Horseleap Utd; Dernafest, Lough Gowna, Co. Cavan; Midlands
Abbeyleix Athletic v Rosenallis; Fr. Breen Park, Abbeyleix; Offaly
Cloneygowan Celtic v O’Moore FC; Fenter Park, Killeigh; Offaly
Towerhill Rovers v St. Carthages Athletic ; Leisure Centre, Portlaoise; Offaly
Birr Town v Derry Rovers A; Frank O’Connell Park, Birr; Offaly
Ballinahown A v Willow Park; Sportspark, Ballinahown, Midlands
Idle Clara Town A, Monksland Utd A, Mullingar Athletic
Clonaslee Utd v Coolraine; Community Centre, Clonaslee; Offaly
Walsh Island Shamrocks v Highfield Utd; Carty Park, Walsh Island; Offaly
Idle Mullingar Town
Geashill Utd v Clonown Rovers; Sutherland Park, Ballinagar; Midlands
Derry Rovers B v Ballinahown B; 8:00 pm Fri 1st Brians Park, Edenderry; Offaly
Banagher Utd v Kinnegad Juniors; Middle Road, Banagher; Offaly
Idle BBC Utd
Clara Town B v Maryborough; Stanley O’Hara Park, Lisaniskey, Clara; Midlands
Rosenallis B v Riverside FC; The Grove, Rosenallis; Offaly
Clonmore Utd v Monksland Utd B; Community Centre, Boora; Midlands
St. Cormacs Athletic v Mountmellick Celtic; Cultree, Broughal Road, Kilcormac; Midlands