Despite Saturday being the opening day of the Bluefin Sports Premier Intermediate League (PIL) due to some teams being involved in Steel and Sons Cup action there were only three league matches played at the weekend, two of the remaining matches will have been played last night with the final game from week one taking place tonight. We’ll get to Saturday’s matches shortly but again for the benefit of those of you unfamiliar with the third tier of Northern Irish football we’ll quickly go over the league format.
The PIL basically works similarly to The Championship, twelve teams who play each other home and away before the league splits into the top half teams and bottom half teams playing each other once more, not twice more home and away as is the case in The Championship. In terms of promotion the team in first place at the end of the season is promoted automatically and second place plays off with second bottom from The Championship over two legs, unlike in The Championship there is no play off between 2nd and 3rd first, the team in bottom place at the end of the season is relegated assuming a side from one of the regional leagues below meets the requirements for promotion.
Now to move onto the football.
Armagh City 2 Portstewart 3
It was recently relegated Armagh against newly promoted Portstewart at Holm Park on Saturday. As you remember I backed the Seahawks to fare better than some may expect after only one defeat on their way to league victory but it was City who drew first blood in the match with a debut goal from Steafan McKenna who cut infield and scored into the top corner 25 yards from goal in the first minute of play. The lead wasn’t to last for long though and Portstewart were back on level terms thanks to a cool finish from Eoghan Quigg (yes the one time X Factor finalist!!!) and then the visitors took the lead ten minutes before half-time after Johnny Stewart turned and scored past goalkeeper Danny Devine. City seemed to take control in the second half and equalised thanks to a free kick from Thai Blevins but as the young Armagh team pushed forward in search of the win Davy McClements fired a shot goalwards from just outside the box that went in off the woodwork and proved to be the winning goal.
Moyola Park 2 Banbridge 0
Banbridge finished last season in 6th place but after spending much of the first half of the season around the promotion areas their challenge faded away. Moyola have been busy this summer adding no fewer than eight new players to their side, five of which started on Saturday. Both teams had chanced to take the lead during the first half but went in at halftime scoreless and the score would remain that way until well into the second half when Moyola finally took the lead virtue of a fine Tiarnan Rafferty finish in the 82nd minute and Jason Paul made sure of the points with a second goal in the 89th minute.
Annagh United 2 Tobermore 4
I would expect Annagh to struggle once again after relegation to the PIL last season and whilst it’s still early days they didn’t get off to a good start on Saturday in front of their home fans, despite scoring two goals in the match. After an up and down season for Tobermore last season that seen them pushing towards the promotion spots at one point they to slumped to an 8th place finish. Manager Adrian Whiteside has been busy adding to his squad over the summer and will be hoping for at least a top half finish this season. Last season Tobermore relied on top scorer Gary Keane who opened his account for the season but Whiteside will be pleased to have seen Andy Laughlin, Neil Lamont, and Dean Brown also hit the back of the net to get their season off to a flyer. Annagh meanwhile will be hoping to get some points on the board asap.
That’s it from this particular PIL roundup but, hopefully, you will be pleased to know that we have a double header this week as later in the week we will be covering the midweek games from the division.