Last week saw the news breaking regarding the teams who have made their applications to play in next seasons Premier Intermediate League (PIL). This year sees a total of nine teams applying to make the jump up the ladder, coming from three of the top Intermediate leagues in the country. Perhaps the most disappointing news was that no clubs from the Northern Amateur Football League (NAFL) had applied to make the step up the Irish League pyramid. The NAFL boasts some of the finest club sides in Intermediate football, but this season none of those clubs deemed the time was right to make the step up.
However, here at TFD we thought what better time to start looking at the runners and riders involved in the title battles at the top of each of the leagues. Each week we will focus on the leagues and teams involved in the four title races and keep you up to date with the race for the PIL.
The clubs confirmed as having applied for promotion include Bangor, who are of course the most recent side to leave the Premier Intermediate League. They are joined by four other Ballymena & Provincial League (BPIL) sides in Brantwood, Coagh United and Glebe Rangers, all of whom have been in the Irish League in recent years, plus Sofia Farmer.
Bangor were the pre-season favourites to lift the BPIL having dropped down following a disastrous year in the first season of the newly formed Premier Intermediate League. After something of a shaky start as they got used to their new surroundings, Bangor have been in fine form, dropping just two points in their last six games to secure their position at the top of the league ahead of last season BPIL Champions, Coagh United.
Coagh won the title last year in a tight battle with the now-defunct Wakehurst, Glebe Rangers and Newtowne. Coagh, Wakehurst and Glebe had all joined the BPIL that season following the reshuffle in the Irish League set up and proved their mettle along with the well-established Newtowne, each picking up one of the four trophies available to BPIL Intermediate sides. This season Coagh are in second place, five points behind the Seasiders following a run of three games without a win over the Christmas and new year period.
Glebe Rangers spent ten years in the Irish League after winning a playoff in 2006 versus NI Intermediate side Trojans. The Ballymoney side also dropped into the BPIL last season, winning the McReynolds Cup along the way by beating Coagh in the final. They are on course to be well in the mix for promotion, as they sit ten points behind the leaders but with five games in hand. Glebe have played only 8 league games due to their extended progress in the Irish Cup, Steel & Sons Cup and Intermediate Cup.
Brantwood are one of the most well-known sides in Intermediate football. Nine times Steel & Sons Cup winners, the Skegoneill side joined the BPIL in 2010 after deciding to take a step back from the IFA Championship. Brantwood are two times winners of the BPIL Intermediate division since entering, the most recent in 2014. They would have among the best facilities of those clubs who have applied for the PIL having recently upgraded their home ground with the addition of floodlights. At this point however the Brants sit some way off the pace having won only three of their nine games so far, but with plenty of games left to play in the second half of the season.
Sofia Farmer are in their infancy as a club only in existence for three seasons. The largely Portuguese speaking side were entered into the BPIL in time for the 2015/16 season, but their first season saw them established as the whipping boys of the division, conceding an average of over 7 goals a game as they ended up with only two points at the seasons end.
In their second season they gradually found their feet as they welcomed a series of signings from Portugal and ended the season in a respectable mid-season position. This season they have brought another batch of players from their homeland and have enjoyed a fine season to date.
They currently sit fourth in the league, eight points behind leaders Bangor but with three games in hand. With all that said, Sofia have caused some controversy in the league this season, with a number of teams unhappy at the level of sportsmanship shown in certain games, while a member of the club recently posted an update on social media which suggested the club was set to fold. However, on Saturday Sofia racked up their 6th win of the season for far in a pulsating 4-3 victory over their neighbours Cookstown Youth.
The remaining teams who have applied for promotion include Dollingstown and Crewe United from the Mid Ulster League, plus Maiden City and Strabane Athletic from the North West based NI Intermediate League. Over the coming weeks we will look at each of the clubs and the leagues in general more closely, and keep you up to date with the weekly scores and standings.
Ballymena Premier Intermediate League
Chimney Corner 0-8 Dunloy
Desertmartin 2-2 Coagh Utd
Sofia Farm 4-3 Cookstown Youth
St.James Swifts 1-2 Glebe Rangers
|8||St James Swifts||8||4||2||2||18||10||8||14|
Northern Amateur Football League Premier Division
Clarence Cup fixtures meant there where no Premier Division games this weekend.
|3||1st Bangor OB||15||7||2||6||28||28||0||23|
NI Intermediate League
Ballymoney Utd 1-3 Maiden City
Dungiven P-P Newbuildings Utd
Oxford Utd Stars 2-4 Ardstraw
Strabane AFC 1-2 Magherafelt Sky Blues
|1||M’felt Sky Blues||8||7||1||0||18||9||9||22|
|9||Oxford United Stars||5||0||0||5||7||22||-15||0|
Mid Ulster Football League Intermediate Section A
AFC Silverwood P-P Richhill AFC
Camlough Rovers P-P Valley Rangers
Dollingstown 2-1 Banbridge Rangers
Fivemiletown United 3-1 St Marys
Hanover 2-1 Windmill Stars
Moneyslane P-P Ballymacash Rangers
Tandragee Rovers 1-1 Crewe United