AFTER an absence of four months, soccer is set to return later this month, with FAI protocols allowing clubs back to training and competitive action approved from July 20.
The Munster Senior League, which suspended their 2019/2020 season, will next week announce their plans to kick off the 20/21 campaign, which will probably be in late August.
For four MSL teams, however, action will get underway on the weekend of July 24/25 when Carrigaline United are due to face Rockmount in the semi-final of the Munster Senior Cup while Cork City will take on Midleton in the other semi-final (both provisional for that weekend).
There will definitely be local action on Saturday, July 25, in Ringmahon Park, where the home side will face Killester in the semi-final of the FAI Intermediate Cup.
For Ringmahon the chance to reach the Intermediate final is a not so small consolation in their quest for silverware this year, having had their league title bid halted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Ringmahon manager Aidan Foley admitted that the players and, indeed the whole club, were gutted when the season was deemed void, but he is delighted that they now have something to play for.
“It was a big disappointment, to be fair. The squad, and the club as a whole, were gutted because we had put so much work into the season, which I’m sure was the same for all the clubs.” Foley.
“We had paid a lot more attention to detail and we had put a lot more effort than in previous years, that extra 10%, and it was paying of, so we were really disappointed when the season was halted.”
Foley, is taking some consolation, that the FAI Intermediate Cup will be completed as they bid to win it the trophy for the first time.
“This gives us something to play for, and to be honest, without it actually being confirmed at the time, it was in the back of our heads that the semi-final would be played and that made it a bit easier to tell the players that the league had been cancelled.”
With that in mind, Foley made sure that Ringmahon would be prepared.
“After the season was cancelled and we had the restrictions, we gave the lads programmes to do on their own for the first few weeks.
“Then we heard that there could be dates for the semi-final, we did a few sessions through zoom and then we went back training in groups.”
Ringmahon have a short window to get ready for their date with Killester, but Foley is happy enough with the preparations given the circumstances.
“To be honest I was a bit surprised with the players’ fitness levels when they came back. They were all after looking after themselves well, but to be fair, they would have all been doing something anyway, even with the prospect of no football, and they would be fit.
“It’s just about getting in some match sharpness now and not picking up any injuries.”
Given that the Leinster Senior League opted to continue their 2019/2020 season, Killester could be slightly ahead of the curve when they ship up at Ringmahon Park in four weeks time, a point not lost on Foley.
“I think that might give them an edge, but we will be prepared for that. We have a few friendlies lined up with Mayfield, Cork City, and Midleton, so we should be ready for them.”
If there are any positives from the long lay-off, it is that it gave Foley’s walking wounded the chance to recover from their knocks.
“We had a few niggles at the time of the season being called off, but I’m sure lads would have played through them if they had to, but they are fully fit now. The big plus though is that Roy Long is fit and back training and that is a great boost for us.
“We will have a full squad to pick from bar Cian O’Connor, who is cup-tied, so we should be in good shape.”
Killester will be the second LSL side to play in Ringmahon Park this season after Bangor Celtic were seen off earlier in the competition after a hard-fought game.
Foley can’t emphasis enough the importance of playing at home.
“That is a huge for us. There was talk that it might be played in a neutral ground like Abbottstown, but fair play to the league and John Finnegan, they fought our corner and it should be another good game at home.”
Ordinarily this cup tie would draw a huge crowd, but the return to football protocols may mean a limited attendance in Ringmahon Park.
“We will have the grounds well prepared in line with the protocols, but we’re not sure about how many people will be left into the game, we are still waiting on information about that,” admitted Foley.