Credit Union Senior Football Leagues

The senior County football Leagues, which celebrated 40 years in existence last year, commence this coming weekend and are once again sponsored by Chapter 23 of the Irish League of Credit Unions who have been generous sponsors of the competition since 2003.

The Leagues, first introduced in 1971 with one Division of eight teams, were the brainchild of the then county chairman, the visionary Dr. Jim Brosnan, and were a follow on from the old Towns Cup competition, which, as its name suggests, was a competition played out mostly between clubs from the larger urban areas throughout the county. The eight sides that made up the first Division 1 in 1971 were; Kerins O'Rahillys, John Mitchels, Austin Stacks, Laune Rangers, Waterville, Kenmare, Desmonds, and Keel with the honour going to Waterville of being the first side to claim the Division 1 title.

Kenmare won the title the following year and the Leagues quickly expanded to three Divisions in 1973, continually grew in stature and it can be rightly claimed that the competition is the envy of almost every other county throughout the country. The Leagues have undergone many changes since their inception and the movement of clubs up or down the Divisions can be very rapid especially during periods where the "3 up, 3 down" promotion/relegation rule is in operation.

The progress of up and coming clubs as they climb the ladder of success can also be gauged from a glance at the league tables over the years. In recent times for instance, the march of the likes of Glenflesk, Dromid Pearses, Ardfert, Skellig Rangers, Castlegregory and St. Michaels/Foilemore through the divisions, has heralded championship success for these clubs at local, county and indeed national level.
Conversely, the same can be said for clubs making the journey in the opposite direction, usually as a result of the retirement of star players, or the loss of players through immigration or changes in population bases. Indeed all of the lower Divisions have teams that graced the top table of the league with varying degrees of success at one time or another.

This year, as in recent years, matches will be fixed for Saturday evenings but, where clubs are not in agreement with this arrangement, the fixture will default by rule to Sunday unless otherwise fixed by the CCC.
With the first five rounds of the league scheduled to take place by the June Bank Holiday weekend, the next two months or so will go a long way towards determining a club's status in the 2012 league table.

Division 1
Austin Stacks, who incidentally won the Division 2 title in 2010, are the current Division 1 champions and the Tralee side sit on top of the Roll of Honour alongside Laune Rangers with nine titles each to their credit. Interestingly, Stacks open the defence of their title with a home game against Dingle - the team they beat after a dramatic final last year.

Dr Crokes have the honour of having the longest unbroken spell in Division 1; having been relegated to Division 2 in 1973 they were promoted as champions in 1977 and have retained their Division 1 status ever since winning the title on 5 occasions.

Due to Milltown-Castlemaine's involvement in the All Ireland Club Championship, the playoff between themselves and Spa to determine the outright winners of the Division 2 title for 2011 has yet to take place and the Round 2 meeting between the sides on the w/e of April 15th is likely to "double up" to decide the title. Both sides of course, operate in Division 1 this season.

There are five East Kerry sides in Division 1 so there will be local derbies a plenty starting with the meeting of Gneeveguilla and Dr Crtokes in Round 1.

Division 2
An Gaeltacht have lost their Division 1 status for the first time in 20 years and they will operate out of Division 2 in the coming year. Indeed it is difficult to recall a time when the West Kerry side did not grace the first division powered as they were by the likes of the Ó'Sé brothers, Dara Ó Cinneide and many more household names. Operating out of Division 2 in 1993, they made their way to Division 1 in 1994 and were ever-present till last year winning the title in 2007. They will be joined in the drop to Division 2 by their West Kerry neighbours, Annascaul, who had two years in Division 1.

Promoted to Division 2 are Tarbert, who have slid down the Divisions since 2009 when they were in Division1 and a Waterville side who spent three years in Division 3 and who of course were last year's Intermediate Championship finalists. Add in the likes of Desmonds, Emmetts, Finuge and Kilcummin and you have a pretty strong Division again this year.
For the first time since 1990, Glenflesk will march into county League action without the services of the mercurial Seamus Moynihan - truly, the end if an era.

Division 3
Scartagle have made it to Division 3 of the League after more than twenty years trying. They are a side who have been acquitting themselves fairly well in various championships in the past few years, particularly so in East Kerry and they are more than entitled to their day in the sun after many years of trying. They are joined in Division 3 by Ballymacelligott who spent two years in Division 4.

Two sides who tasted recent Club Championship glory in Croke Park, Castlegregory and St Marys, return to Division 3 after two years in Division 2 and you also have the likes of the current Mid Kerry champions, Glenbeigh-Glencar, County and Munster Junior Champions, Dromid Pearses, and Currow who missed out on promotion narrowly last year.

It has a reputation for being a most difficult Division to get promoted from and it looks like it will be more of the same again this year.

Division 4
With five North Kerry sides such as Beale and Moyvane, Lispole in the West, and Templenoe and Tuosist in the deep South, Division 4 certainly has a wide geographical spread to it with plenty travelling guaranteed.

Sneem-Derrynane and Tuosist come down from Division 3 this year and one has to go back a long time to see Sneem this far down the county league table. The South Kerry side were in Division 1 as late as 2003 and I suppose their plight reflects the decline in population in some rural areas of South Kerry.

Templenoe and Moyvane are the promoted sides in Division 4 and they like many more clubs in the Division will be hoping for a change of fortune in 2012 and a return to former glories.

Division 5
Following the innovative process tried out last year when the Division split in two with the top eight teams playing off for the promotion places, Division 5 reverts to the old tried and tested format this year. While it could be said that the experiment worked well for the top half, the same could not be said for the bottom half of the Division.

The presence of the "B" teams from the stronger Urban Clubs has always been a bone of contention in this Division but this year there are just three "B" teams, Laune Rangers, Kerins O'Rahillys and Dingle.

Brosna and Fossa come down from Division 4 and you have the likes of Ballylongford, Ballydonoghue, Renard and Knocknagoshel all competing for the two automatic promotion places. Third in the Division will play off with third from bottom of Division 4 for a place in the higher Division.