WITH a New Year approaching, attention will turn to the business end of the Cork Business League season.
Teams will scramble for pole position in the Premier and First Divisions and prepare for action in the Mooney and Divisional Cups in what promises to be an unforgettable second half to the league’s historic 70th campaign.
Jay Bazz, in their first season in the top flight after last season’s third-place promotion, have taken the Premier Division by storm.
The Sports Gear Direct First Division Cup holders tore into a six-match winning run which included big wins over former winners Marlboro Trust, Martin Harvey Solicitors, Healy O’Connor Solicitors and Inch Utd.
Their only defeat was at the hands of champions Doolan’s Cow in the derby at Mayfield Community School on Sunday, November 6.
As a result, Jay Bazz currently enjoy a nine-point lead over Doolan’s who have four matches in hand.
The Cow dropped two points in their opening fixture with Marlboro Trust but have ominously recovered to string together a five-match winning streak which has propelled them into second in the table, one of only two teams to remain unbeaten.
The other, Satellite Taxis, are currently third with last season’s First Division winners Brew Boys and Healy O’Connor Solicitors lying further back. Martin Harvey Solicitors, after their exploits in the latter stages of the shield competition and the junior cups, are currently lying seventh in the table but have only played four matches and have the potential to apply pressure at the top as the season progresses.
UCC Utd can never be counted out, despite losing twice already, but having only four matches played could well join the title race at the most opportune time.
At the other end of the table, debutants Valley Rangers and Inch Utd. along with OBS will be looking to a revival of fortunes as they attempt to avoid the drop by quickly picking up much-needed points when play resumes.
The First Division is fascinatingly poised as no fewer than eight teams still remain in the title race. The lead has exchanged hands on a couple of occasions already with unbeaten Arc Rovers and Andy Sull’s Hair coming to the fore in recent weeks after Jason O’Neill Electrical led the way in the early stages. In-form Longboats are looking like potential winners in recent weeks, having only dropped four points so far.
The lead is shared by three teams, Andy Sull’s, Longboats and Arc Rovers with only goal difference separating the teams. Trend Micro, despite losing on three occasions, are growing into the campaign along with Tim Irwin’s Crookstown Utd, who despite their recent loss to Andy Sull’s, possess the division’s leading marksman in James Kelleher and are relishing playing the big guns on their home turf in Crookstown. The league’s longest-serving club, County Council, cannot be ignored as their mid table placing can be misleading after only suffering two defeats in eight outings.
At the other end, The Weigh Inn have yet to pick up a first win but will draw inspiration from holding potential winners Arc to a draw early on in the campaign. A group of three which includes Curry House Hungry Tigers, Telus International and HBC Redemption Rovers are battling it out to get to double figures as quickly as possible and move comfortably out of the bottom half.
Mooney Cup holders Doolan’s Cow will be vary of a potential banana skin when the Mooney Cup draw is made in early January following their near escape in last season’s final triumph over Crookstown. Other potential threats, best placed in their respective leagues, who must at this stage have an eye on the blue ribband trophy of the league calendar are from the Premier four-time winners Marlboro Trust, leaders Jay Bazz, Satellite Taxis, UCC and Martin Harvey Solicitors.
The top six in the second tier are capable of giving any team a run on the day with a least two making it to the last four or further depending on the draw.
The divisional cups are liking to produce a new winner with the possible exception of Premier holders Doolan’s Cow who, by the time the competition comes around in mid-April, could be still in the hunt for the four domestic trophies and become the first teams to win the back to back quadruples and a hat-trick of successes.
Players to watch in ’23 in the Premier Division are the formidable front three of Doolan’s Cow, captain Tony O’Reilly, James Cotter and Jamie Murphy. Brandon Downey, Aaron Kemp, captain Darren McGrath and Adam Hegarty have been prominent in helping Jay Bazz rise to the top in their first season in the top flight. November player-of-the-month James Corcoran has been the catalyst in Satellite Taxis’ unbeaten run while promoted Brew Boys continue to look to Gavin Quirke for goals as he had done last season.
In the First Division, the three leaders, Andy Sull’s, Arc Rovers and Longboats have plenty of power up front. The two McCarthy’s Scott and Zack have been among the goals for Andy Sull’s while vital goals from Rovers’ captain Dean Cummins and Longboats’ November player-of-the-month Louis Kendellan and Liam Cashman have kept their respective clubs in the hunt for a first title success.