The opening fixtures in the Costcutter Ceredigion League include a couple of very interesting clashes featuring possibly the three best teams in the division with Lampeter Town and Llandysul locking horns in the season opener and at Parc Emlyn, ex St Dogmaels midfielders Adam Williams and John Curran will go head to head with their former team mates in the red strip of Newcastle Emlyn.
Llandysul finished the season particularly strongly by winning the Bay Cup and they also went very close in the race for the title and they should have wrapped up the J Emrys Morgan Cup as they were by far the best team on the night in the final.
The Tir Y Dref side left it late in the season before they hit top form and they should start as the favourites for the title as they have a very well balanced side and they were unlucky not to win more than one trophy under manager Chris ‘Coco’ Davies.
New keeper John Durbridge recently signed from Narberth is a quality performer and he will have a solid back four in front of him led by powerful centre half Dean Jones who will have player of the season Scott Mayes alongside him as well as Sion Price and Lewis Jones. In midfield Ben Thomas (pic) was one of the best in his position last term and his ball winning abilities will supplement the play making skills of people like Terry Maynard and up front Adrian Hazelby and Simon Davies are a formidable pair with Davies in particular a class act.
Lampeter are a tough side to beat on any day and have a hard edge to their game but they will go into this season without four of their stalwarts in Mark Rivers, Jason Jones, Mark Evans and Terry Witts who have confirmed that they are retiring. Managers Terry Jones and Tommy Lovell may well try and coax some of them back as collectively they will prove to be a huge loss.
New captain Luke Lovell will lead from the front and midfielder Gethin Davies who impressed many last season in the centre of midfield will play alongside new signing Arwel Thomas who has switched across from the oval ball game and he has stood out in pre season training. Christy Gale and returning play maker Steve Lovell are other new faces and the north road team will not be far away come April as they still have enough strength in depth to figure in the race for the title.
Emlyn midfielders Williams and Curran are sure to receive a warm welcome from manager Chris Thomas and his men if selected for Tuesday night. The midfield area will be strongly contested under new manager Gethin Nant Davies and assistant Owain Thomas as they have strengthened their squad and the former saints duo will have to fight for their places.
Peter Almond will lead the line after a successful season but the reds will probably need more firepower if they are to achieve their ambition of getting back up into the top flight.
There are plenty of hands up for a starting place in the middle of the park as there is real pressure for a place in the team with Jake Harris and ex Bargod midfielders Thomas and Sam Skinner some of those likely to figure at some point although the latter may not play for a few weeks as he is struggling with a shoulder injury
Bargod Rangers have within eight weeks gone from serious title challengers to a mid table banker after almost half their team decided to leave for different reasons. Player manager Owain Thomas, key midfielder Sam Skinner and the front running pair of Dion Phillips and Robbie Jenkins have gone to pastures new and there is a new manager in place in the form of Jack Hewitt Fisher who is only 18 years of age. The youngster who has come up through the juniors at Parc Puw and who played mainly for the Reserves last season is a former player with the Carmarthen Academy and has a keen interest in coaching. Joe Turner is taking over the second team.
Crannog face a Bargod Rangers team that have been wounded but they will be all out to prove that there is plenty of talent left at Parc Puw. The Llangrannog men who lifted the Easter Monday Cup will rely on the tried and tested with the likes of Huw Reed, George Colven, Rhydian Roberts, Mike Glover and Rhys Davies likely to be key players for them.
Champions Cardigan Town entertain division new boys Cilgerran and the Coraclemen will relish this challenge especially with the developments at the King George.
Cardigan have some fine young players including the likes of Tomos Toft and Iestyn Evans who is a superb passer of the ball and they have others in the shape of Ben Davies, Emlyn George and Dylan Davies and ofcourse James Evans if he decides to stay but it is likely he will go to Goodwick along with Casey Walters who has already left.
Cilgerran manager Neil Morgan has agreed to stay on for a few months after announcing that he was retiring and he will need to strengthen his squad if they are to make any impression. They have some talented players in Gary Evans, Justin Williams, Louis Harding, Dai Williams and Ollie Evans and they will need to start well to keep the momentum going.
St Dogmaels have struggled to get a team together and sadly their Reserves have been forced to drop out of the league and it could well turn out to be a very difficult few months for manager Thomas and co as they have found it tough to get just one team together for pre season friendlies. Outstanding teenager Rhys Jones may have to take a far more responsible role in the centre of midfield this term and he is certainly good enough to do this and player manager Thomas will be hoping that seasoned veteran Ioan Owen can give him one more season in the engine room, Craig Williams may join from Cilgerran and his dad Steve Williams may have to dust down his boots once again to make up the numbers.
Felinfach entertain near neighbours Aberaeron Reserves and both sides will be keen to improve on last season. The Milkmen have prepared well and enjoyed an excellent win over Llanilar recently with goals from Aled Davies, Lee Forrester, Owain Evans Merion Evans and Eilir Evans and they will be well organised and tough to beat.
Dewi Stars under manager John Jones are very much the unknown quantity and they face a difficult season in pastures new.
Cardigan have been the dominant force over the past few seasons and have played a super brand of football but they are unlikely to figure at the very top this term as they don’t have enough experience nor player resources and will not be able to plug the gap left by John Lumb and Liam Doherty but they have some fine young footballers coming up through their ranks and they will have good times again very soon.
Llandysul, Newcastle Emlyn and Lampeter Town will be the three main rivals for the Norman Llewellyn Memorial League Trophy and it is Llandysul for this observer as they have the best all round squad with quality performers in all the right places.
Last season was probably the best ever in the Cardiganshire league with five teams in with a chance with only a month of the campaign left. Hopefully this season will offer football followers another intriguing battle at the top.