Soccer season set to kick off

Soccer season set to kick off

1 August 2018

THE new soccer season kicks off on Saturday after a break of only 11 weeks.

Action gets underway in the Amateur League with Drumaness Mills, Downpatrick FC and newcomers Ballynahinch Olympic leading the local charge for honours in the Premier Section.

Killyleagh YC, Kilmore Rec, Newcastle and Comber Rec will be competing in Division 1A, with Ballynahinch United, Dromara Village and Portaferry again contesting Division 1B. Saintfield United are in 1C and Castlewellan in Division 2B.

Drumaness managers Dessie Campbell and Mark Holland have been busy in pre-season and have added Neil Teggart and Charlie Holland from Downpatrick FC, Marc Feenan and Stephen Galbraith from Celtic Bhoys, Rory Burns and Conall Corrigan from Castlewellan and Stefan Mason has returned after a brief spell at Ballynahinch Olympic.

The Mills open with a tough trip to 1st Bangor on Saturday and follow that up with a midweek game away to Crumlin Star. It’s another tough away assignment on Saturday, August 11 with a game at Rathfriland before entertaining East Belfast at Meadowvale three days later. Their fifth game in 14 days will then take place against Albert Foundry on August 18.

Downpatrick FC are a club in transition and following the loss of managers Joe McMahon and Kevin Trueman. Tony McShane and Paul Moore have stepped into the hot seat, but they have a mighty job on their hands keeping Downpatrick in the Premier Section.

The loss of a host of senior players has left the club with no choice, but to play their young players and who wins anything with kids?

Downpatrick open with an away trip to Albert Foundry on Saturday before entertaining Immaculata on August 9. On August 11 they face Bangor Amateurs in the first round of the Steel and Sons Cup with a league game on the 15th at home to 1st Bangor. They will have another home game on Saturday, August 18, when they take on newly-promoted Islandmagee.

It’s a case of as you were at Ballynahinch Olympic, who won Division 1A last season. Manager Liam Sloan is more than happy with the squad that gained promotion last season and the only player he has lost is Stefan Mason, who has moved back to Drumaness Mills.

Olympic are away to East Belfast on Saturday before travelling to Islandmagee three days later. They then have two home games on August 11 and 15 against Immaculata and Rathfriland respectively before facing 1st Bangor away on the 18th.  

Killyleagh — who just missed out on promotion last season — will again be managed by Paul Sharvin with Nicky Hagan as his assistant. For the first time in seven years, Killyleagh YC start the season with the same manager they finished the previous season with.

Sharvin starts his second full season in charge, a vote of confidence in how well he performed in his first season in taking the club to the quarter-finals of the Steel and Border Cups and steering them well clear of the Division 1A relegation zone.

They will be hoping to put in a better push for promotion which fizzled out so disappointingly due to a backlog of fixtures arising from the cup runs and disciplinary suspensions.

Sharvin has been busy in pre-season, re-signing all of last year’s squad and strengthening it by adding the signatures of Barry Treacy (Downpatrick), Ryan Blaney (Kilmore) and Macauley Foster (Drumaness), all of whom have featured in the YC colours before.

Killyleagh open the new season with early season derbies against Kilmore Rec and Comber Rec, seeking revenge against the two rivals who beat them at The Showgrounds last season.

John Young has tried hard to entice new faces to Robert Adams Park as he bids to get Kilmore Rec back into the top flight. 

He has managed to sign younger brother Conall from Glenavon, Drew Barnes from Linfield, Anton McGrattan and Mark McMahon from Drumaness Mills and Odhran O’Connor from Celtic Bhoys.

The Rec start with a derby against Killyleagh at The Showgrounds before entertaining Newcastle on the Tuesday night. They then have a Steel and Sons Cup first round game against Abbey Villa on the 11th before they entertain the same opposition in the league on Saturday, August 14. Yet another derby game awaits Kilmore on the 18th when they travel top Comber Rec.

Newcastle is another side in transition following the departure of manager Ciaran Brannigan at the end of last season. He has been replaced by club stalwarts Paddy Baker and Gordon Moore. 

Adam Garland has joined from Comber Rec, Ruairi McGuinness from Warrenpoint Town, Ryan Valentine and Lewis Casement both from Tollymore United, Justin Barlow from Drumaness Mills and Vinny Rice has returned to the club from Dundrum United.

Newcastle open with an away fixture at Larne Tech before taking on Kilmore Rec on the Tuesday night. A tough Steel and Sons Cup assignment at Ards Rangers awaits them on August 11 before taking on Killyleagh on the 14th and again on the 18th.

Comber Rec have enjoyed a productive pre-season with both Colin Manley and Craig McCracken enjoying starring roles. Comber open with a home game against St Pat’s before they travel to Killyleagh on the Wednesday night. A home game to Malachians awaits on August 11 before further home games against Rosario and Kilmore Rec.

In Division 1B, Ballynahinch United, with Glynn Robinson and Dale Davidson taking over from Alan Davis, open with an away game at Dunmurry Young Men before a midweek trip to Dundonald. A home derby against Portaferry awaits on August 11 before a home game against Ballywalter Rec on the 14th.

Robinson has brought in Alistair Coburn (Ards Rangers), Jordan Hayes (Banbridge Town), Killyleagh duo Stefan Lynch and Jack Forbes, Rory Deegan (Kilmore Rec), Davy Boal (Carryduff) and Johnny Shannon.

David Fitzsimons will be hoping for a better year for Portaferry who open with a home game against Bryansburn Rangers before another game at Cloughey Road against Mossley on the Tuesday night. They then take on Ballywalter Rec on the 11th before games against Downshire and Dromara Village.

Speaking of Dromara, Gerard McMahon has been replaced in the managerial hot seat by John Kernaghan.

Dromara open with a home game against 18th Newtownabbey before facing Downshire Young men three days later again at Bells Bridge. A trip to Ballywalter Rec on August 11 will be followed by gams against 18th Newtownabbey again and Portaferry. 

In Division 1C, Adam Kelly remains in charge of Saintfield United with former player and current vice-president Michael Clarke joining as his assistant for the new season. After a second successive mid-table finish in Division 1C, the Saints will be hoping to challenge in the upper reaches of the division this season. They start their league campaign with away fixtures to Groomsport and Suffolk, before playing at home to Bloomfield and Shorts.

On the playing side, the vast majority of last year’s squad has been retained, with a couple of new players joining the team which will be captained once again by Craig Bowman. James Milligan returns from Comber Rec for his second spell at Pigeon Hill,and last season’s U-17 captain, Ethan Barr, makes the step up to senior football.

As with last season, the form of the Sofley brothers, Ryan and James, as well as custodian David Harper, will be crucial to the Saints’ fortunes.

Elsewhere in the club, long-serving seconds manager Lindsay Ross has stepped down. Lindsay, who will continue to oversee the club’s junior section, leaves his role following a successful season in which the seconds reached the final of the Walter Moore Cup. The club would like to thank Lindsay for his efforts over the past nine seasons as seconds team manager. 

His replacement will be stalwart Lee Young, with Andrew Bishop and William Hawkes acting as his assistants. As well as plenty of experience as a player, Lee has coached at both youth and senior level.

Castlewellan don’t start their campaign in Division 2B until Saturday, August 18. Managers Aidy Kelly and John Burns have been replaced by former players Nial Toner and Conor Doyle and The Town open their campaign with a league game against Bangor Young Men.