Irish League review of action so far

ALL four of the local sides will be hoping to achieve their own goals and objectives as the season reaches its climax over the next few months. Seasons can be won or lost in one single game. Here is a review of how the local clubs have fared so far this season and how the closing stages of the season may pan out for them.

TOBERMORE UNITED are leading the way out of the four local clubs this season. The Fortwilliam Park outfit gained promotion last season and at times this season they have looked the part in what is an incredibly tough league.

Tobermore started the season with two stunning victories over Championship 1 regulars Banbridge Town and Limavady. On the opening day of the season they hammered Limavady United at the Showgrounds in what was David Platt’s opening game in charge for the Roesiders.

However, their stunning start to the season was put to a swift end as Ballinamallard United strengthened with arrivals from Galway United and Sligo Rovers defeated Tobermore in their opening home game of the season.

This defeat started a poor run of form in which United only defeated Warrenpoint away in what was a testing month for Johnny Law and his side.

This topsy turvy form continued as Tobermore relied on their home form for some crucial victories.

Tobermore squeezed past Glebe Rangers at the Riada with a 2-1 victory on New Years Eve. This was the last time that Tobermore featured in league action. In addition, they suffered some serious cup disappointment over the Christmas period.

Tobermore were defeated by Ballinamallard in the Irish Cup in a dramatic cup tie at Fortwilliam Park. United also suffered disappointment in the Craig Memorial as a youthful Institute side won on penalties in the Boxing Day final.

Law departed shortly after a defeat to Clifonville Olympic in the Intermediate Cup and took control of the Coleraine Reserve side. The attraction of his boyhood club proved to be too much for the former Glebe manager.

Tobermore return to action this Saturday with a trip to Ferney Park to face league leaders Ballinamallard United. Oliver McAuley takes over as manager stepping up from his assistant manager role.

McAuley certainly has a difficult start as Ferney Park is a notoriously difficult place to go to. However, Tobermore should have enough about them to remain in the Championship 1. Their home form is always solid and they will be hoping to pick up a number of home wins from their remaining ten fixtures, to secure their place in the division for next season.

In Championship 2, COAGH UNITED lead the way as they sit top of the league with seventeen games played.

Despite their opening day thumping of local rivals Moyola Park, United struggled to get any sort of consistent form in the early stages of the season. They drew their second game 2-2 against Annagh United in a fiery affair at Hagan Park and followed it up with a defeat in Lurgan.

Following their defeat to Lurgan Celtic, Coagh started a stunning run of form which saw them go unbeaten for nine games. A tricky fixture at Mullaghcall Park saw them lose out by 4-2 in November.

Nonetheless, joint managers Stephen Uprichard and Noel Mitchell led the side on another unbeaten run which has saw them win five out of their last six fixtures. Coagh have been blighted by injuries to key players such as Stephen Lamont and Steven Hawe. In their absence the likes of Aaron Campbell, Steven Park and Scott McGeown have led from the front as United look to return to the second tier.

One possible stumbling block for the Villagers is the fact that they still remain in the Irish Cup and Intermediate Cup. They face Newbuildings United in the last sixteen next Saturday and host Cliftonville Olympic in next round of Intermediate, the following Saturday.

It is incredibly tight in the league at the moment and anyone from second place Ballyclare to seventh placed Queens University will fancy their chances of promotion. By the time Coagh return to league action, it could be a lot tighter at the top of the table.

Coagh only have three home games left in the league and will be hoping for a strong return of points from these games. Their away form will be crucial. They have a number of tricky fixtures and positive results away will determine whether or not Coagh will return to the second tier at the end of this season.

This season has been certainly one to forget for Mervyn Pattison and MOYOLA PARK. Moyola are certainly one of the more progressive sides in the local area and have some of the best facilities in the country. However, Pattison has admitted that performances have been poor this season and will be looking to the future.

Moyola have struggled for consistency at home and will hope to avoid being involved in a relegation scrap over the next few months.

The Mill Meadow side are working incredibly hard at their youth setup and this will hopefully bear fruit over the next few years.

Some of the few positives have been a hard fought win against Wakehurst and victory over strugglers Chimney Corner. Manager Pattison has strengthened his panel during the January window and will be hoping that the likes of Adrian Whiteside can help Moyola avoid falling out of the Irish League.

However, the next month or so will prove to be crucial for the famous Castledawson side. In March they host fellow strugglers Killymoon Rangers and also travel to Allen Park to face basement side Chimney Corner.

Relegation battles are always about beating the teams around you . Picking up points in these games will prove crucial for the Mill Meadow outfit.

KILLYMOON RANGERS currently sit just three points above their Castledawson rivals in the Irish Championship 2. Killymoon like Moyola Park play on a 3G surface, which many clubs struggle to get to grips with.

Home form will be critical to Brian McGarry , if his side are to avoid slipping out of the Irish League. In recent weeks the Mid Ulster Sports Arena based outfit have shown a lot of improvement as they narrowly lost out to Carrick Rangers in the Irish Cup.

Striker Warren Smith is a proven goalscorer at this level and his goals should keep Killymoon safe. Skipper Steven McElhatoon will be hoping to lead by example in defence and Killymoon must stop conceding soft goals to avoid becoming involved in a relegation dog-fight.

The ‘Moon arguably have the harder set of fixtures remaining as they face a number of tricky away trip to Ballyclare and Knockbreda. With no cup competitions to wreak havoc with their fixture schedule, Rangers will be hoping to pick up some valuable home wins to stay clear of the drop.

Home fixtures against Wakehurst and Portstewart are two games in which they will be hoping to pick up points in. In addition, they have the opportunity to try and derail the promotion bid of Coagh United.

Killymoon host the league leaders on the 31st March at the Mid Ulster Sports Arena.