Since the Waterford Premier League got up and running back in August it has captured the imagination of the soccer public. Purists will claim that the overall standard may have dropped somewhat, but that point of view is without doubt open to debate. There have been some wonderful games played during the past five months, and I have no doubt that that trend will continue into 2008. For the first time in many a long season it is impossible to predict just who will be crowned champions, and at the other end quite a few clubs are fighting hard to get points on the board to stay afloat. The following are the standings at the present time.
1st. Bohemians. Games played 9. Points 19. Clem Fanning and his assistant Noel Mackey and trainer Paddy Ryan have a super squad this season. At the tail-end of last season they put together some good results and they brought that form into the new campaign. Morgan Pender has scored 9 goals of their overall total of 19, and that is a fantastic strike rate. David Whittle is leading their defence superbly and players such as Bobby Keoghan and the evergreen Liam Maher are turning in some fine displays also. Bohemians have a delightful blend of youth and experience and they will be there or thereabouts come the end of the campaign.
2nd Waterford Crystal. Games played 9. Points 17. A lot of people thought that Crystal would not make much of a title bid this season but a recent victory in Carrick put an end to that sort of talk. They brought the curtain down on 2007 by hammering Southend United 4-1 with Joe Watson scoring a hat-trick. Their defence is the best in the entire league. They have conceded only 7 goals in 9 games and that tells its own story. Goalkeeper Derek Hearne is playing better than ever and on the odd occasion when their defence is breached, he is there to pull out all the stops. Youth players Jason Foran and Mitchell Casey have brought fresh blood and Brendan Rea is there also to add his vast experience.
3rd St Saviour’s. Games played 9. Points 15. The club promoted from Division 1A have been the story of the season to date. Newly promoted clubs have always found the going tough in the Premier League but that has not been the case with the Ballybeg Saints. They lost their opening game to Johnville but since defeat they have reeled off 5 victories. It is worth noting that they have not drawn a game to date which proves that they do not close up shop in an attempt to win points. Stephen Dalton and Bobby Barron are real lively strikers and goalkeeper Graham Cleary is top class. John Paul Jacob has really buckled down this season and John Keane has found his true position at full back and his forward moves create havoc to opponents. I am not sure if they will have the staying power to win the title but they will finish in the top half of the table.
4th Tramore. Games played 9. Points 13. Difficult to fathom out this season in league football. The men from the seaside have scored only 10 goals but on the other hand they have leaked only 9, which perhaps is the reason why they have drawn 4 games and have won only 3. Stephen Gahan is a fine goalkeeper and Martin Whelan is a top class defender. Last season they depended a lot on goals from Leigh Quilty, but those goals have not been as plentiful this time around. Tramore are not playing the open football they played last season and one would think that perhaps cup football could be their avenue to success this season.
5th Villa. Games played 8. Points 12. Many thought they would suffer from “second season syndrome” but that has not really been the case. They reached the semi final of the FAI Junior Cup last season but they made an early exit from that competition this term but they do have to travel to Dungarvan on Sunday, December 30th for a Munster Cup game, as the original game fixed for Connors Park fell foul of the wet weather. Paul Omotoso, the former Waterford United striker has proved to be a good signing for them. Ian Cantwell in the middle and Danny Sheridan at full back are also enjoying a fine season. A mid-table position is more or less assured this season.
6th Dungarvan United. Games played 7. Points 10. Anslem Hayes and Kealon O’Neill have a fine team to work with this season. They put in a lot of hard work during the pre-season and that graft has paid off especially in cup football. They have been involved in some magnificent cup games this season in both the FAI Junior and Munster Cup’s. Extra time and penalties have been required to secure victories against clubs such as Cappoquin and Southend. The return of Micheal Downey has proved to be a masterstroke. Tony Fitzgerald and Christy Ross Power are playing the best football of their career’s and Kevin Walsh coming back from Kilkenny City has also proved to be a wonderful move for the club. He was the player who scored the winning goal in extra time against Westport United in the FAI Cup last week. With only 7 games played in the league it would be difficult to predict what will happen during the coming months with with two games in hand they could move right up with Bohs and Crystal if they win those games.
7th. Southend United. Games played 9. Points 10. Southend have leaked 19 goals to date and they also are finding it hard to score goals at the other end. On their day they can match the very best but already they have lost 5 games in the league. They defeated Tramore in the FAI Cup and then lost a classic to Dungarvan United on penalties in Kilrush Park. Paul Quilty and Paul Carey are playing well this season. Brian Arrigan and Colin Fanning are doing well also but a proven goalscorer is required if they wish to get away from the wrong end of the table. With a talented squad available manager David Walsh and his assistant Paul O’Brien will improve matters sooner rather than later and they should be capable of climbing the league ladder in the new year.
8th. Carrick United. Gamed played 7. Points 8. The league kingpins for the past decade are finding the going tough this term. It is a long time since the Coolnamuck outfit lost 3 out of their opening 7 games, but that is what has happened this term. Cup football has not been a problem however because they are going great guns in both the Munster Senior and Junior Cup’s, and they are also still standing in the FAI Junior Cup following their recent victory over Cahir Park. Thomas Fitzgerald is beginning to find his form (and the goals) following injury. Anthony O’Donnell is as good as ever at the back. Anthony Power is beginning to motor out wide left. Wayne Fitzgerlad, their Irish Junior International was expected to be out of action for up to 18 months following his injury playing for Ireland against Scotland but the good news is that he will be back in action shortly as the problem was not as serious as first thought. If they win their games in hand they will be on the coat tails of the leaders, that is how tight this league is.
9th Johnville. Games played 8. Points 7. The St John’s Park club won their opening game of the season against St Saviour’s but they have not won a game since. They did draw 4 games and those points have kept them off the bottom of the table. Gary “Gazza” Kelly has been in great form this season and his 7 goals have been really precious for the club to date. They have been fighting relegation for the past two seasons and it looks as if that will be the case once again this time around. In fairness they have lost their games by close margins and if players like Pat Brown and the other front runners can begin to find the net they could begin to move up the table. Their defence is a cause for concern however, because they have conceded 15 in total and they will have to improve in that area also.
10th. Ferrybank. Games played 9. Points 5. Last season’s runners-up are propping up the entire league with just one win from nine games played. Their squad is more or less the same as last season but for some reason they have not captured their form at all this term. Last season Kevin “Goosie” Roche was the league’s leading goalscorer with 15 goals and to date this season he has scored 5 goals but unfortunately the other players are not really chipping in with their quota. They have given away a total of 20 goals and that is the worst record in the league which is surprising considering the excellent defenders they have got. In their last game they led the leaders Bohemians at half time but they fell asunder completely in the second half, eventually losing 3-1. Poor goals conceded and lack of power up front is proving costly for the Abbeyland club. They have a difficult few months ahead but they still have the time and indeed games to get out of trouble.
Premier League fixtures
The following are the next games to be played in the Waterford Premier League in 2008. Tuesday, January 8th. Bohemians V Dungarvan United (7.15pm) Ferrybank V Villa (7.15pm).
Saturday, January 12th. Bohemians V Tramore (7.15pm).
Sunday, January 13th. Carrick United V Johnville, Southend United V Dungarvan United, Villa V St Saviour’s, Waterford Crystal V Ferrybank (All 11am).