New season kicks off
THE Canada Life Premier League embarks on another nine-month rollercoaster of emotions with a full round of fixtures this Saturday afternoon.
Fresh from collecting the Eric Fletcher Charity Shield at the Bowl last Friday, Grand Slam winners St George’s begin the defence of their league crown with a trip down south to take on Castletown.
Goals from new signing Gary Quirk and Sam Caine were enough to seal a hard-fought victory against St Mary’s last week
In contrast, it has not been an easy summer for the southerners who have lost several of their star players, including Tom Callister, Karl Clark and Stephen Whitley and they could not have asked for a tougher start to the 2012-13 campaign.
In a somewhat ironic turn of events, Town’s final game of last season was at home to Geordies and they were on the receiving end of an 11-0 demolition which confirmed the Saints as league champions. Golden Boot winner Ciaran McNulty was their chief tormentor that day as the former Gymns striker netted no fewer than six goals and the Glencrutchery Road side will be eager to record a similar result to send out a signal of intent to their rivals.
The two sides promoted from JCK Division Two have been handed difficult fixtures on their return to the top flight, with Marown heading to the Bowl to face St Mary’s and Union Mills welcoming DHSOB to Garey Mooar.
The Saints are seen by many as genuine challengers to Geordies’ dominance and put up a decent fight in the Charity Shield last week. However, their cause was not helped by injuries to debutant Terry Rigaux and goalkeeper Max Thomas. The latter dislocated a finger and had to be replaced by centre-back Dom McGreevy inbetween the sticks while Rigaux came off significantly worse in a 50/50 challenge and suffered a potentially serious ankle injury.
Both Mills and Marown impressed on their way to securing promotion but will know from past experience how tough life can be in the Premier League and will be eager to put some points on the board as soon as possible.
Derek Cowley’s Mills, however, will be without star striker AJ Suckling who is moving to London so they might find goals hard to come by, especially against the likes of Old Boys who will be looking to give new manager Brian Gartland a winning start to life in the Blackberry Lane hotseat.
Tony Mepham and his fixtures computer have also produced a clash of the heavyweights on the opening day of the campaign, with Laxey crossing the island to take on Peel at Douglas Road.
Like St Mary’s, the Miners are tipped to challenge for the title this season and Steve Falconer has strengthened his side well in the close season. Peel went through something of a transitional season in 2011-12 but ended it well and have enjoyed a very good pre-season which has seen them defeat Welshpool Town 7-1, Old Firm rivals Rushen United 6-4 and Pulrose United 11-1.
With Rick Holden back at the helm it promises to be another interesting campaign for the westerners but Laxey did the double over them last season so might just have the edge.
Another interesting battle should unfold at Croit Lowey where Rushen United host Corinthians. The Spaniards enjoyed a solid season last time out, eventually finishing fifth, while the Whites began strongly before ending in a safe midtable position.
The southerners did the double over the Ballafletcher outfit in the last campaign so will start as favourites to collect all three points but the visitors have strengthened well during the summer so could surprise their opponents.
The final game in the top flight on the opening day of the season sees Ramsey make the journey to Mullen y Cloie to face St John’s.
The Saints have their sights set on a place in the top four and eventually even a title challenge to aid their bid to enter the FA Vase and this fixture gives them a good chance of getting off to a winning start.
Leading the line for the hosts will probably be none other than former Ramsey striker Jamie Moffatt on his debut for the Saints, however the northerners will be boosted by the double signing of Bulgarian sensations Blagoy Smilyanov and Kiril Velev from Onchan earlier this week.
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Weather for Isle of Man
Sunday 26 May 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 22 mph
Wind direction: South west
Temperature: 7 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 28 mph
Wind direction: South