Down Area Winter Football League round-up, May 21
What a test it has been for the league and clubs to get this year's campaign finalised, with the indifferent weather playing havoc with the programme for large parts of it, but with help from all concerned, the season has been completed - so well done to everyone involved.
In the Premier Division, Moat Park Rangers led the way for quite a portion of the season, but it was Greenwell Star who were crowned champions in emphatic style, when they beat fourth-placed Vision Athletic 11-1 to complete a remarkable unbeaten campaign. This dual has raged on throughout the season, and it was fitting that it went to the final game before the champions were crowned with only one defeat being recorded between them. At the other end of the table, we had Comber Star and Ravenhill Young Men III struggle throughout the season to finish in the bottom two, but their relegation will perhaps give each team the opportunity to rebuild for next season. In any case, it was great credit to each team to have completed their league programme by getting a team out each week. The problem of getting a competitive team out each week was highlighted more so, when last year's champions Brentwood folded, only to be resurrected from the flames, so well done all teams for getting teams out each week, despite the additional frustrations caused by the unpredictable weather.
In Division 1, it was great to see some of the new teams performing so well and being a great addition to the league. One of them, Clonduff, had a battle royale with Agape throughout the season, when it was hard to call who would be crowned champions. In the end, it was Clonduff who held their nerve in their last few games to claim the title in their first year, so very well done. Indeed, three of the new teams finished in the top seven positions, with Newtownards RBL finishing third and Carrowdore YM finishing seventh, so what great additions they have been.
In Division 2A, it was a battle that mirrored the Premier Division, with Greenwell Star II and Moat Park Rangers II pressing each other, and it finished in similar fashion, with Greenwell Star II making it a club double by winning their final game against 3rd Bangor II 5-0, showing the strength in depth each club has. This division has suffered throughout the season, with three clubs having to withdraw their second team - Brentwood, Comber Star and Stranmillis 7th OB - an indication of the difficulties running two teams, so again, well done any club who managed to get two teams out, week in, week out. In Division 2B, it was Comber Young Men II who claim the title and a swift return to Division 2A, having suffered relegation in the previous season, and they were joined in promotion by the youthful Abbey Villa IV, who secured promotion in their last game against Bangor Rangers IV 2-0.
In the cup competitions, it was Corrymeela who claimed victory in a tense battle with Comber Young Men in the Sittlington Cup final, winning in the dreaded penalty shoot-out. In the Jigsaw Financial Billy Allen Memorial Shield, it was Greenwell Star who made it a league and shield double, beating Newtown Forest 3-1. In the Mervyn Bassett Reserve Team Cup, it was Greenwell II who matched their first team's effort by winning a league and cup double, beating Abbey Villa IV in a tense final 3-2. In the Tommy Murphy Memorial Shield, Moat Park Rangers II made up for losing out in the title race by claiming the prize in another penalty shoot-out.
Well done to all the winners, but the biggest winners have been everyone involved in delivering what has been a truly exciting campaign with most of the divisions going to the wire, highlighting the competitiveness in each division. Can't wait for next season's challenges to start already.