willows explode into life
FRESH from their explosive start to the new CCFL season, Willow Park travel to Dublin on Saturday to start their Leinster Senior Cup campaign.
Parting company with manager Tony O'Sullivan, the man who guided them to numerous trophies in recent years, does not appear to have dulled their appetite for success.
They began the defence of the CCFL Senior Division with a blistering 6-1 victory over Mountmellick with goals from Brian Fogarty, Gary McHugh, Robbie Shine and Peter Sherlock in the first half leaving the Laois side shellshocked.
This was a Willow side which is without Aidan Hyland who has left after six years with the club, a period where they won the CCFL top-flight league title every season.
Also in Athlone, John McCrossan scored the only goal as St Peter's defeated Monksland in the first big derby of the new term on Shannonside.
Former Willow boss O'Sullivan has moved across town to take charge of Melville United, the fourth Athlone side in the nine-team Senior Division.
A notable absentee from the division this season is Killavilla United. The much decorated Roscrea-based club has decided not to field any adult teams in the CCFL this season.
CK United are back at the top table and have been strengthened by the arrival of former Tullamore Town players Kevin Williamson and Brian Francis.
CK limbered up for the new campaign by hosting - and winning - a pre-season league at their home ground, a tournament which also brought in some funds for an upgrade of Macari Park.
They host Mountmellick on Wednesday evening, the same night that St Peter's entertain Willow Park at McCarthy Park.
Elsewhere in the league, a new entrant is LOFFA (Laois Offaly Families For Autism) FC, a team founded by campaigners supporting families affected by autism.
O'Moore FC is a new Laois-based team which will also play in Division 4A while across in Division 4B, Ballinagar are making a return to local soccer at Sutherland Park.
The Youths divisions have yet to kick off but there has been plenty of action already because the team fielded by the CCFL reached the final of its section in the Macron Galway Cup.
Managed by Tony O'Sullivan and Declan Holihan, the side drew 2-2 with Finn Harps in their first match, then drew 1-1 with hosts Salthill Devon before beating Regional United 1-0 to reach the semi-final.
A 1-0 win there over Galway team Mervue United earned the CCFL boys a final match against Finn Harps and though their luck ran out in that one - they lost 1-0 - participation in the tournament was a great boost for the league's Youths development coordinator Eamonn Brady.