A WEEK before the 2020 First Division season is scheduled to kick off, UCD and Cabinteely are still in the dark about who they will face or if there will even be a First Division at all.
A ten-team division featuring Shamrock Rovers II, the Hoops’ reserve side, or an 11-team league featuring a revived Limerick side remain on the table with fixture lists released by the FAI for both.
The initial ten team division, featuring three rounds of fixtures, was revised by the FAI when Limerick were successful in a legal challenge to apply for a license for the season.
This was further complicated by the nine existing second-tier sides’ vocal opposition to Rovers II’s co-option in place of Limerick, who were docked 36 points last season after failing to pay players.
Cabo manager Pat Devlin declared the statis a “circus” at the club’s season launch last week as they plan for the new season without any certainty of how it will take shape.
Cabinteely at least go into the new season, however it pans out, in a position of strength after retaining the bulk of last season’s beaten play-off squad retained for 2020.
Last season’s top scorer, and PFAI player of the year, Rob Manley has departed for Longford Town while captain Stephen McGuinness has joined Premier Division Bohemians.
The retention of defender Conor Keeley, who will captain the side in 2020, is a major positive, as is the re-signing of local hero Marty Waters.
Michael Kelly and former Canadian youth international Corey Chambers will compete to become McGuinness’ permanent replacement as Cabo look well-stock in behind.
Japanese attackers Kaito Akimoto and Ryusei Kojima have signed from Portmarnock and Liffey Wanderers respectively, while Dylan Thornton from Bohs is an exciting prospect.
The club’s ‘green line’ development plan has also yielded a breakthrough player in 18-year-old midfielder Eoin Massey, who will look to kick on in 2020.
UCD have seen the majority of their 2018 First Division-winning side depart while Andy Myler is the new man in charge following the poorly-handled dismissal of Collie O’Neill late last season.
A disappointing performance in last week’s Collingwood Cup saw Diarmuid McKenna’s college side beaten at the first hurdle by eventual champions DCU.
A number of talented players, including O’Neill’s recruits Jack Keaney and Liam Kerrigan, and former Waterford striker Colm Whelan have boosted their ranks for the season.
Limerick defender Tomás O’Connor and former Bohemians underage player Michael O’Keane have also arrived but Conor Kearns, Liam Scales and Jason McClelland are significant losses. They do, at least, have another potential future gem in midfielder Dara Keane, who made his breakthrough late in the relegation season and may blossom at a less-demanding level.