By Harry Shorthose
“We’ll worry about ourselves and let everybody else worry about what we’re doing.”
The words of New Oak Boys manager Brian Quigley as he issued a stark warning to their opponents ahead of this year’s battle for The Nationalist Premier Division title.
Speaking at the launch of the upcoming season at the Seven Oaks Hotel last Thursday evening, Quigley says he is confident his team can retain the silverware they won in May.
“We’ve had people coming to us looking to play, we haven’t approached anybody. We’re settled this year, we have all the same people plus a couple more. The experience will be key this year, everything was new last year so the future is bright for us,”
Last season, The Nationalist Premier Division race was hotly contested with New Oak and Crettyard taking it all the way to a nail biting play-off. Only Chris Bermingham’s 86th minute header separated the two sides with the trophy residing at the Burrin Road. While neither team would give much away at the league launch, one thing is clear, both teams have strengthened, both teams will once again be ahead of the rest and they will run each other close.
The two will meet in a mouth-watering tie on the opening weekend of the season in the Carlow Shield.
Crettyard were so close and yet so far last season, Manager Patrick Brennan is hopeful of a good campaign. They are the most decorated side in Carlow League history and will be eager to reclaim the league title.
“We expect to be winning leagues every year so last season was a bad season,” he said. “We were over fatigued last season towards the end, we were victims of our success. Have we bridged the gap? Yes. Will we be stronger this year? Yes. Three years without a title is not good enough. We have strengthened and have a wicked, youthful exuberance in the team now. It’s been much spoken about how we were an older team so I’m really happy with how we’re looking.”
Hanover Harps struggled last season after the euphoria of their maiden title win in 2018. Their manager Paul Dowling reckons this season will be about rebuilding and focusing on a cup run. They face a mouthwatering clash with rivals Dolmen Celtic, who boast some familiar faces in their ranks, on the opening weekend.
“We’ve lost Graham Delaney and Mark Davis to Dolmen,” Paul said. “They wanted to try something new. I’m genuinely disappointed they left. They’re gone now so we have to get on with it. We have some good young lads coming through that genuinely want to play for Hanover. They’re mad to play for Hanover! They’re only 16 or 17 but they’re big lads so it’s about rebuilding and getting them into the team. My target is getting them into the team by Christmas so that when the Carlow Cup starts and the Premier Cup starts, they know what system we play and they are comfortable in it so it’s a learning curve until Christmas.”
St Patrick’s Boys have lost several players but under new management, they are taking things one game at a time according to joint manager Pat Costigan.
“It’s been slow starting off, getting numbers in but it’s slowly picked up. What we have is quality, it’s just about getting a couple more in but we won’t have the biggest panel. They’re committed and don’t want to be third or fourth. They want to be number one.
“The first couple of league games will tell us where we are, whether that’s achievable or whether it’s an impossible dream.”
Ballymurphy Celtic have held on to their Premier Division status and joint manager James Barry is hoping his side can kick on this season.
“We have the right balance to the team this year and plenty of competition for places. We have a completely different approach this season. We’re going well in training and looking ahead to a good season. Last season, we didn’t do too well against the teams around us and then we ran the top teams close. We were just not clinical enough and that was our own fault. We’re hoping we can be more clinical and consistent. They’re well capable and eager.”
Slaney Rovers are the new boys in the Premier Division, having been crowned Division One champions last season.
Manager Peter Kehoe insists they are not just there to make up the numbers.
“We’re looking forward to it. We’ve been on a roll the last couple of seasons with back-to-back promotions. We’ve had a good strong squad the last couple of years and we’ve added to it again so we’re hoping to be OK. We’re hoping to give a few teams a scare and that they’ll be looking up at us for most of the season. We’ve built a good squad so I think we’re capable of doing damage up there.”