With the league season done and dusted, Tom Moss casts an eye back over the 2011-12 campaign and assesses how the local teams fared, who stood out and what can be expected of them next time around.
A third placed league finish suggests that this was a relatively good season, but that’s not necessarily the case. Willow Park took the title, nine points ahead of the Laois men, but this was a campaign dogged by inconsistent results. Losses against the likes of Birr Town and Clara Town took some of the gloss off excellent results against St Peters and Willow Park, where they became the only side to inflict a league defeat on the league champions for almost three seasons.
Robbie Hibbitts – The league’s top scorer, the striker is perhaps the most coveted player in the division. His goals were crucial to Mountmellick’s fortunes again this season.
Their first season in the top flight was all about staying up; job done. A cup final appearance was a massive bonus, and although they came up short in the Cotter Cup showdown, the Port men will be relatively happy with their campaign. They did slip well down the league table after Christmas, perhaps as a result of their extended cup runs.
Joe Gorman – Gorman was instrumental in his side’s successes this season. Skilful and fast, the midfielder has made a name for himself in the top flight.
Maintained their Premier Division status so in one sense it was a successful first season back but the fact that there was only two points to spare might be a worry. That said, they deserved to stay up and they were capable of posing even the top sides plenty of problems.
Stephen McEvoy – the reliable centre-half provided a solid back-bone for his side all season and looks a very assured defender.
A miserable season for the Clonaslee men. Right from the off they struggled with numbers and they were as good as relegated by Christmas. They are a plucky bunch and did manage to register a couple of late season wins but they were easily the division’s weakest side.
Danny Larkin – an exciting young footballer, Larkin looks to have plenty to offer his side as they try to regroup after their disappointing season.
What a memorable campaign this was for the Abbeyleix men. They led the division pretty much from start to finish and although they left it a little later than they would have liked to seal the deal, they were undoubtedly the deserved winners.
Neil Cooney – a rock solid centre-half, very little escapes Cooney. Has formed a tremendous partnership with Dave Brennan and was outstanding all season long.
Promoted at the first time of asking, Town pushed the eventual winners and neighbours all the way to the wire. Tremendous form, particularly after Christmas where they pushed past Tullamore to take control of second spot, and no side in the entire CCFL lost fewer games than the men in green.
Damian Murphy – a class act, Murphy never stops going and his tireless efforts and versatility were a key part in Stradbally’s promotion.
With the two other Laois sides in flying form, Noreside spent nearly the entire season at the wrong end of the table, and suffered the heartbreak of relegation thanks to a play-off against Highfield.
Wayne Sydes – in a disappointing year, Sydes did as much as anyone in trying to beat the dreaded drop.
Another local side that dominated their division. Worthy champions and like Abbeyleix their attention to the youth structure is evident in their successes. An excellent campaign.
Johnny Knight – a playmaker that oozes class. Strong and skilful, Knight was the fulcrum of the side all season.
A slightly disappointing season. Mid-table and a good way short of challenging a very strong top two.
Paul Lynch – like Gracefield’s Knight, Lynch is a top midfielder with the work rate and ability to make it in a much higher division.
Like Portlaoise, they will be disappointed that they didn’t get closer to challenging for promotion. Plenty to work with but inconsistent. Their excellent run in the Counties Cup was their undoubted highlight this year.
After a poor start they looked to have turned a corner after Christmas but fell apart just as quickly and couldn’t get the points on board to stay up.
Darren Finlay – tried tirelessly to lift his side but it was all in vain for the hard-working midfielder.
CCFL Laois Team of the Year
1. Matsy Forde (Mountmellick Utd), 2. Damian Murphy (Stradbally Town), 3. Mark Graham (Rosenallis), 4. Neil Cooney (Abbeyleix Ath), 5. Mark Goodwin (Mountmellick Utd), 6. Dave Thorpe (Arlington) 7. Shane O’Connell (Mountmellick Utd), 8. Johnny Knight (Gracefield), 9. Kevin Fitzpatrick (Dynamo Town), 10. Robbie Hibbitts (Mountmellick Utd), 11. Joe Gorman (Arlington)