Unlike with the JD Cymru Premier, predicting a potential winner of the new JD Cymru North this season is like trying to pick the magic numbers for the Euro Millions – well the first five at least without the lucky stars.
Many of us so-called experts were bitten fiercely last season as an Airbus side much respected but not seen as an obvious front-runner stormed to the title.
Bangor City and Rhyl were widely cited as the two main contenders, but neither pulled up any trees.
My cheeky bet for the championship last term went on Porthmadog. It proved a decent shout, as the Traeth men ended up in third spot, although some way off the summit points-wise.
So how about this season? Which teams among the 17 making up the newly-named JD Cymru North will vie for the tier-two honours?
This question is made harder by the fact we are still unsure what will happen to Bangor City, who have assembled what appears to be a very good squad over the summer, but could yet be relegated depending on the outcome of disputes with the FAW.
I could elaborate, but it’s complicated so let’s leave it at that and see what happens….
If the Citizens remain in Cymru North, and keep the current set of players together, they should be a force.
Flint Town United, a brilliant second last season, are likely to go well again, as should Porthmadog, whose new manager Sion Eifion Jones has made some great summer signings in the likes of Mel McGinness, John Littlemore and Rhys Alun Williams, not to mention last season’s reserve team top-marksman, the prolific Sion Parry, promoted to the firsts.
Rhyl have assembled a good-looking squad, packed with experience including Asa Hamilton, a hero for Airbus last season, who has always bagged goals at this level.
Two clubs of Colwyn Bay and Llandudno’s quality surely have to be well in the mix.
The one problem for both could be the vast amounts of players they have brought in during pre-season. Building a title-challenging side takes time, could it be a season too soon for these two?
My tip for the title? It has to be Prestatyn Town.
There are remarkable similarities between this Seasiders squad and the one which last won the Cymru Alliance in 2016-17.
The champions of three seasons ago had, like the current team, been relegated from the Welsh Premier and needed a campaign of adjustment in tier two before emerging as major big guns again.
Last term saw Town end up mid-table in the CAL, but returning manager Neil Gibson transformed them from a struggling outfit into one which comfortably stayed afloat.
Gibbo has been busy this summer strengthening the squad, bringing back to the club class performers like Michael Parker, Jordan Davies, Rob Hughes, plus brothers Kai, Zyaac and Zebb Edwards, who have all stood out in tier two (and higher) before.
Last season’s success stories, such as Ian Griffiths, young international defender Dan Roberts, evergreen centre-back Dave Hayes, midfield general Alex Jones and the dynamic Macauley Taylor have all remained.
It already looks like one of the most balanced squads in the league, they haven’t needed too much familiarisation time, and I expect them to have a big season.
Who are my Porthmadog of last season? The dark horses who could make a big impact?
I’m going for Conwy Borough, who have come up with some cracking signings, largely under the radar, including Liam Morris, last term’s top-marksman for Welsh Alliance champions Llangefni Town and a hero for the Ynys Mon men’s Inter-Island Games winners.
Sean McCaffery, Harry Galeotti, Dafydd Jones, Huw Shaw, Craig Whelan and Moses Barnett have also landed at Y Morfa – some really good captures there – while the prolific Corrig McGonigle remains on board.
Some of these new players are stepping up a level, but in my eyes I think they are ready for it.
So watch out for Conwy Borough, they will surprise a few.
As for the rest, I don’t see any “dud” teams in the league. All are capable of upsetting the bigger names on their day, just look at Gresford Athletic beating Colwyn Bay in the Nathaniel MG Cup this weekend for instance!
Will anyone catch us out this season? Rise from the ashes like the phoenix dove and stun us all? Is there an Airbus out there?
That remains to be seen, but with this league one thing is guaranteed – quality football and top class entertainment.
JD CYMRU NORTH (17 teams)
Flint Town United
Friday, August 16
Prestatyn Town v Guilsfield (7.45pm)
Saturday, August 17 (2.30pm)
Bangor City v Colwyn Bay
Flint Town United v Rhyl
Llandudno v Corwen
Llanfair United v Ruthin Town
Llangefni Town v Gresford Athletic
Llanrhaeadr v Penrhyncoch
Porthmadog v Conwy Borough