Credit Union County Senior Football Leagues are back
There is no doubt but the Credit Union Senior Football Leagues have stood the test of time. Now in their 52nd year, the Leagues seem to be going from strength to strength and are usually regarded as a very good barometer of a club’s standing at any particular time. True, a club may slip down a Division every now and then due to a possible combination of reasons such as retirements, injuries, immigration or unavailability of county players, but more likely than not, they will be seen to reclaim their “rightful” position in the League sooner rather than later.
Equally true however is the fact that right now many clubs in Kerry are facing up to the harsh realities of demographic changes in the county and many rural clubs in particular are now facing challenges that they have previously experienced in the immigration ravaged ‘50s and ‘60s and indeed in more recent times during the economic slump of the late noughties.
Still, Kerry clubs are a resourceful bunch and fifteen clubs have two teams entered in the current League while one Club, Dr Crokes, has three teams.
The County Leagues were introduced in 1971 following a meeting of the County Board in February of that year. Back then, there was one Division of eight teams; Austin Stacks, John Mitchels and Kerins O’Rahillys from Tralee, Laune Rangers, Waterville, Desmonds, Keel and Kenmare. The old Towns Cup competition, a forerunner to the County Leagues, was played for by other interested teams. Waterville defeated Laune Rangers in the inaugural County League final played in Fitzgerald Stadium on the 21st November on a score of 2-15 to 3-5 with Mick O’Dwyer scoring 9 points.
The Waterville team lined out as follows: Michael Sheahan, Timmy O’Shea, Sean Clifford, Batty Galvin, Gerald Cronin (0-1), Paudie O’Shea, Brendy Donnelly, Mick O’Connell (0-2), Sean O’Shea, Noel Clifford (0-1), Mick O’Dwyer (0-9), John O’Shea (1-0), Denis Fenton, James O’Shea (0-2), Dominic Courtney (1-0).
Laune Rangers: Pat O’Grady, Tom Curran, Pat O’Shea, Pat Horgan, Kieran Foley, Noel Lucey, Jerry Coffey, Timmy Doyle (0-1), John P. Cahillane, Pat O’Riordan (0-1), Frank Russell (2-3), Michael O’Shea, Seamus Curran (1-0), Patsy Joy, Eamonn Crowley.
Referee: Seanie Burrows (John Mitchels). Gate takings were £43:50.
Waterville went on to represent Kerry in the Munster Club Championship as decided by the County Board.
The following year, at a special fixtures sub-committee meeting, it was decided to organise three Leagues; Senior League, Towns Cup (16 teams in two groups) and Junior League (25 teams in three groups). The number of teams in the Senior League increased to 12 with the addition of Spa, Dingle, Ballylongford and Dr Crokes, with Kenmare defeating Waterville in the final on a score of 1-14 to 0-4.
The County Leagues as we know them really got off the ground in 1973 following a motion to the 1972 County Convention by the Rathmore Club which stated “That a County Football League with relegation and promotion be initiated”. There were three Divisions in 1973, including fourteen teams in Division 1, when the competition effectively replaced the old “Towns Cup” competition. Rathmore incidentally, were in Division 2 along with the likes of St Marys, Moyvane, Glenflesk, Finuge, Gneeveguilla, Lispole, Glenbeigh, An Ghaeltacht, Legion and Milltown. Dr Crokes were relegated to Division 2 for 1974 and returned to Division 1 as Division 2 champions in 1977 and have been in the top Division since – the longest unbroken spell by any team in the top Division.
Since then, the Leagues have grown in stature and are now the envy of every county in the country. The County Leagues are once again sponsored by Chapter 23 of the Credit Union – a sponsorship now in it’s 21st year.
The inaugural round gets underway this weekend with games spread over the three days commencing on St. Patrick’s Day and continuing in the top four divisions until Round 11 on 9th July.