Killyleagh seal promotion

Killyleagh seal promotion

24 April 2019

KILLYLEAGH YC are back in the football big time.

Paul Sharvin’s team won promotion to the Amateur League’s Premier Section with a hard fought 4-2 victory over nearest rivals Orangefield in east Belfast on Tuesday night of last week.

The final whistle sparked celebrations as manager Paul Sharvin, his assistant Nicky Hagan and the players were mobbed by fans, with supporters bursting into an impromptu chorus of `Walking down the Comber Road.’

There were hugs and embraces, especially for man of the match Johnny Cheevers, who chipped in with a precious goal, and two-goal hero BJ McMenamin was the centre of attention as the champagne celebrations continued in the Whites’ changing rooms afterwards.

“It felt brilliant at the end. I was relieved, not that I felt we would lose the game, but relieved that we had finally clinched promotion,’’ said Sharvin.

“I am so proud of these boys and what they have achieved and I cannot give enough credit to my coach Nicky Hagan. The players have worked hard. It has been a long season but we are going up.’’

Larne Tech are expected to pip Killyleagh to the title, but it will not take away from the scale of what Sharvin and his players have achieved. They suffered suffered only two defeats all season and were unbeaten in the league away from home.

Their points total, even before last Tuesday night’s game, would have been good enough to win the 1A League title in all but one of the last eight seasons.

It is four years since the YC slipped out of the top flight and when Sharvin took over, less than two years ago, Killyleagh had narrowly avoided a double relegation with Kilmore Rec instead filling that position that season, although only one team was eventually relegated.

When he took over, Sharvin boasted that he would not be doing “mid-table’’ in 1A. In his first season his side claimed a number of big scalps from the Premier Section and Intermediate League with impressive cup runs.

“I thought we needed those cup runs last season to get the crowds back to The Showgrounds. We needed that to get the buzz back. At the start of this season we said we would concentrate on the league. We did that and it has paid off, that’s not to say we deliberately lost the cup games.

“But this season we were not left with the huge backlog we had at the end of last season, playing Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for four weeks,” he added.

“We had a stronger squad this season. We added Johnny Cheevers, Macaulay Foster, Ryan Blaney, B J McMenamin and Barry Treacy and they are all quality players.’’

Killyleagh were last promoted in 1980 and remained in the top flight for an unbroken 35 years, a modern Amateur League record. So, it is hardly a surprise that already manager Sharvin is planning to consolidate the Whites’ position back among the aristocrats of amateur football.

“We will be looking to consolidate in the league and aim for a good cup run. But in the meantime we will enjoy this moment. The team has put a smile on the face of everyone in Killyleagh. We’ve been overwhelmed with the good wishes.’’

In last Tuesday night’s game McMenamin gave Killyleagh an early lead which was quickly cancelled out. Johnny Cheevers made it 2-1 from a corner and Orangefield again hit straight back with an equaliser from the penalty spot. 

But, on the stroke of half time, Killyleagh restored their lead. Jack Sharvin was sent tumbling in the penalty area. 

Although his spot kick was saved, Lee Morrison scored a stunner with his right foot from 20 yards to make it 3-2 on a night filled with tension.

Sharvin had changed his tactics for the game to adopt to the tight pitch and in the second half, Killyleagh invited Orangefield to break them down. It was not a game for the purists or the faint-hearted. 

Rather, it was a night for big hearts and Killyleagh had them all over the pitch. 

There was no way past the backline of captain Niall Walsh, Jon Joe Sharvin, Cheevers and Foster, as they won every header with a virtually flawless collective display, protecting Aaron Carberry.

Darren McConnell and Jamie Sharvin were missing from the YC midfield, but unsung hero Kieran Sullivan worked overtime to shield the defence, with Treacy, Morrison and McMenamin putting in outstanding performances beside him.

Killyleagh always looked the more likely to score with the pace of the strike force of Adam Neale and Jack Sharvin causing problems. Between them, Neale and Sharvin have bagged a remarkable 58 goals this season, but the pitch and frenetic nature of the game ensured theirs would be a supporting role.

And when the clinching fourth goal arrived, it was Keegan Rice who linked with Neale to carve out a chance for McMenamin to slot home and make it 4-2 with three minutes remaining.

Cue the celebrations.