The local Soccer Season comes to a finale this coming weekend with the final of the John Farrell Combined Counties Cup taking place in Tullamore on Saturday evening with a 6pm kickoff.
This season’s final has brought together a novel pairing in Sradbally Town and Monksland Utd who are both enjoying their first appearance in the final of the blue ribbon event for junior football in the Midlands.
It is no surprise to see Monksland making the final as they have been one of the stronger outfits in the Senior Division for a number of years now, winning the title last year and battling hard to defend their title for most of this season before falling away on the run in.
Coming from Division 2, it is somewhat of a surprise to have Stradbally in the final though. They aim to be only the second ever team from that far down the divisions to have their name engraved on this famous old Cup.
However they have been showing some excellent form of late, achieving runners up spot in the League before claiming the Divisional Cup and battling their way to this final taking out some teams in Divisions higher than themselves.
Monksland United were formed back in 1971 and were known as Carroll’s Allstars in those early days before taking on their current name.
The team are based in the Monksland area of Athlone on the western banks of the Shannon and play their games in fine community grounds in Cushla Park. Most of their players still live in this part of the town and the club plays a very active part of the local community.
Monksland started off playing in the Roscommon league where they had some great successes before throwing in their lot with the newly formed CCFL in 2006.
In 2010 they won their way into the Senior Division where they have remained since then and after coming painfully close in 2017 they had their best season ever last year when they went all the way and won the Senior Division title. Most of that team is still available and will line out in Saturday’s final.
The Club have built up a great relationship with St Joseph’s Schoolboys club over the years and they hope to further strengthen these ties going forward by entering Youth teams into the League over the coming seasons.
However, in the shorter term they will aim to prove their favourites tag is correct by winning this Cup Final. If they are going to achieve this they will look to players like Cathal Callinan, David O’Brien their captain Conor Jordan and the experienced Earl Gaylard to see that this happens.
They have reached this final following victories over Ballinahown, Cloneygoean Celtic, Ballymahon and Mountmellick Utd after receiving a bye in the first round.
This is without doubt the biggest day in the history of Stradbally Town Football club who were formed in 1996 after the two clubs based in the locality merged to form the current club.
Football has been played in Stradbally for decades with several good players and good teams coming from the area down through the years.
The current crop is no exception with their progress to this glamour final no fluke.
Following victories over Banager Utd, Gallen Utd, Abbeyleix Ath, Horseleap Utd and an excellent semi-final success over Derry Rovers they will not be overawed in any way and indeed they are quietly confident of causing an upset.
For this to happen players such as captain Jody Dillon, Richie Ryan, Benny Lawlor, Jack Langton and Justin Lalor will have to be at their best from start to finish.
Starting out in the Carlow league Stradbally Town were founder members of the CCFL in 2005 and have enjoyed Division 2 Cup success this year to add to a similar achievement in 2006.
The club has very close ties to the excellent schoolboy/girl club T&S United and have brought some new young players into their squad this season. So, the future looks very bright for Stradbally Town.
The game kicks off at 6pm tonight and we will have a full report on site afterwards.
Thanks to Kevin Egan for this report.