I said, like many others, at the start of the season that the Premier Intermediate League would be a tight and unpredictable league and was proven to be right. We’ll now take a look back at just how tight a season it was in this write up.
Looking at the top six one of the first things you might notice is that three of those times, Dundela, Queens and Distillery all finished in the bottom half of the table the previous season and were all in the race for promotion this time around. In the end it was Dundela who topped the table making all their experience and quality count as they finished the season seven points clear and with only three defeats, two against Banbridge and one against Distillery. Second placed Queens hoped to join them in the Championship next season but unfortunately after an impressive season the Students came up just short losing out to Dergview in a two-legged play-off, they did manage to get one over their league rivals Dundela by thrashing them 4-1 in the Intermediate Cup final at Windsor Park to win the first senior trophy in the clubs history.
Rounding off the top four are Banbridge and Distillery respectively, both these sides were in the chase for promotion right up until the last few games but ended up falling just short but like Queens will be confident of being there or thereabouts next season. Both of these sides have set about re-signing their key players and the news that top goal scorer Matthew Ferguson has agreed to stay on another season will be music to Distillery supporter’s ears. Banbridge also have tied down some key players but have lost Joe Todd, Stephen Taggart and Timmy Grant for various reasons, they have also announced a managerial reshuffle with Stuart King being promoted to the managers hot seat and Ronnie Haughey stepping down to a coaching role.
Completing the top six is Moyola Park and Tobermore, one of the criticisms people have had of the league splits since their introduction has been that it means teams in the top half can finish with less points than the teams below them and Moyola and Tobermore are certainly two sides who are grateful for that situation this season. 6th placed Tobermore finished with less points than 7th and 8th placed sides Portstewart and Sport and Leisure and the same number of points as 9th and 10th placed Annagh and Armagh. Out of 27 games this season Moyola only managed ten wins, despite their 5th placed finish they lost more games than they lost and finished some way behind the promotion pack, Tobermore also managed less wins they four of the six bottom sides and both teams will need a big improvement for next season.
The bottom half of the PIL table produced plenty of twists and turns with Annagh, Portstewart, Newington and Donegal Celtic all occupying bottom spot at one point or another. In the end Portstewart’s excellent home form seen them finish in an impressive 7th place and if they can pick up some more points on the road they may even fancy their chances of a top six spot next year. Sport and Leisure and Armagh’s seasons appeared to slump after they missed out on the top six but fortunately both sides had accumulated enough points that they were never in any serious dangerof relegation.
The bottom three was made up of Annagh, Newington and Donegal Celtic but in the end Annagh’s ten wins and Newington’s 28 points picked up were enough for both of those sides to secure their spots for next season and relegate DC, who I had picked as my promotion favourites at the start of the season. At the time of writing it is unclear what league DC will be in next season but it is always sad to see any club relegated from the Irish League, especially one that only five years ago was in the top flight and we wish them well.
Looking over the PIL table it could be said that all sides in the division will be confident of improving on their current campaigns and hopefully next season will prove to be as entertaining as this one and once again I will be back to cover every twist and turn.