With the new NT&DL Premier League fast approaching, it’s time to look at this year’s contenders, as we will see new champions crowned at the end of the season after the recent departure of the blue half of Nenagh. Indeed all divisions across the NT&DL have seen some realignment to contend with, after a number of teams departed the NT&DL for one reason or another. However, not to be deterred, the nine teams competing for this year’s top division will all feel this is potentially their year and will be anxious to kick start their league campaigns next weekend in winning from. Last year’s runners up Nenagh Celtic will be looking to go that one step extra and live up to their league favourites tag under the management of Robbie Ryan, Kevin Flannery and Aidan Manicle. Celtic has been the busier of teams during the summer and they have acquired the services of Sallaypark duo Damien Corcoran and Eoin Ryan in addition to Paddy Flynn from Arra Rovers. Also Celtic will bolster their impressive squad with the return of Davie Walsh, Sean Healy and Cliff Moloney in addition to Craig Moloney and the Jimmy Hynes who both showed excellent form last season and Celtic will need to maintain that form as they entertain newly promoted Streamstown Celtic at the VECthis coming weekend. Roscrea’s only representative in the top flight, Streamstown who won the First Division last season in impressive fashion will have managers James Kirwan and Diarmaid Loughnane alongside first team coach Eugene Shanahan keeping a close watch over new signings Roddy Teehan, Graeme Loughhman, Phillip Murphy and Derek McLoughlin, whom they acquired from Shinrone FC over the summer break. Streamstown will undoubtedly be a force to reckon with this season as their expansive style of play will test the most experienced of defences and they will be heavily reliant strong performances from the likes of Jason Ryan in goal and Paul Doyle up front, whom both received awards for their endeavours last season. Holycross make a welcome return to the top flight under the stewardship of Thomas ‘Swanny’ Dwan and already have earned a spot in the Premier League Shield Final but lost out to a competitive Cloughjordan side. Holycross have gone from strength to strength in recent seasons and with the likes of midfielder Kyle Denny and last season’s top scorer in the First Division, Jo Jo O’Meara remaining at the club, they will undoubtedly be a cause for legitimate concern and their aim of a top four finish is well within their capabilities. Lough Derg were thankful to a late run of excellent results last season to ensure they played top flight football this season and will be looking to make their impressive home venue in Clarisford a tricky venue for visiting sides. Jason Comley will be a target man for many of the Lough Derg’s opposition this year, as he had an excellent season last year with some impressive displays earning him a spot on the Premier League team of the season. Despite having an unfortunate ending to last year’s season, Sallypark have returned once again to keep their long running spot in the top tier. The Latteragh side have lost a number of key players this year to Nenagh Celtic and with David Young taking a sabbatical, the club will have to dig deep to retain their top flight status. With the introduction of a Youths team this year, Sallypark may look to follow in the steps of Cloughjordan who promoted many of their Youths side last season to their Junior sides with excellent results. Indeed Cloughjordan have clearly spelt out their intentions this season in the form of winning the Premier League Shield. Manager Eoin Killackey knows well how to get the best from his side as their form in recent league campaigns has been consistent and they always found themselves in the top half of the table. Dean O’Meara will be the focal point of their attacking style this season and having already settled the Shield final with a well taken brace, O’Meara will be one to watch this year. Clodiagh Rangers will be looking to consolidate their berth in the Premier League after an impressive 5th place finish last season under the continuing guidance of long term manager Eamon Maher. The Drombane outfit caused a number of the more established teams headaches last season and having being able to keep the core of last year’s panel, will be quietly confident of some new additions in the early stages of the season coupled with the return of front men Jody Brennan and Paul Ryan. After a confident display in the John Delaney Cup recently, Clodiagh Rangers first league game is a repeat of last season, where they will travel to face BT Harps in Templemore and will be looking to reverse the result which saw Harps take all three points. Harps have streamlined their efforts this season by withdrawing their B team in an effort to compete in this competitive Premier League. The Templemore side can now boast a new playing field and accompanying dressing rooms which is a clear indication of the clubs forward thinking. The last time Thurles Town remained in the Premier League by default, they ended up being runners up the division and there is no reason to rule them out this season as their pre-season efforts have shown with some impressive friendly game results. The new management team of Fintan Moore and Tom Dorney will be well aware of the task ahead of them, but with Luke Jordan and the young Caley Maher showing early signs of good form, the Greyhound Stadium will be a tough venue to return home from with some valuable league points this season for many sides.