Soccer season is ready for kick-off

Soccer season is ready for kick-off

9 August 2017

THE new soccer season kicks off on Saturday with Downpatrick FC and Drumaness Mills leading the local charge for honours in the Amateur League’s Premier Section.

Killyleagh YC, Kilmore Rec, Ballynahinch Olympic and Newcastle will battle it in Division 1A with Portaferry, Ballynahinch United and Dromara Village competing in Division 1B. Saintfield will play in 1C with Castlewellan in 2B and Ballynagross in 2C.

Downpatrick, who finished runners-up to Crumlin Star last season and lost out to Rathfriland Rangers in the Border Cup final, will again be managed by Joe McMahon and Kevin Trueman.

They have the necessary strength in depth, despite losing Mark Holland to Drumaness and goalkeeper Michael McKenna to refereeing, to mount a serious challenge for silverware. 

They have added former Kilmore and Drumaness Mills ‘keeper Steven Keenan, Ardglass midfielder Eoin Curran and Conor McKenna, who is back after a year with Celtic Bhoys.

However, the club has a crippling injury list and Andy Baggley, Ricky Kerr, Matthew Carson, Johnny Cheevers and Peter Telford all look set to miss the opening game against Lisburn Rangers.

One piece of good news for the club is that former skipper Mark Curran has received a date for his knee operation and he should be back before the end of the season.

Following Saturday’s opener at home to Lisburn Rangers, Downpatrick entertain Drumaness on Tuesday night before travelling to Rathfriland Rangers on August 22.

Drumaness have Dessie Campbell back in charge and the club is hoping that he can again lead them to glory after masterminding a Premier Section and Clarence Cup double at Meadaowvale in 2014. 

Campbell has attracted Stevie Deegan and Michael Magee from Ardglass, Anton McGrattan from Comber Rec, Matty Shaw from Downshire Young Men and appointed Mark Holland as assistant manager. 

Rory Mason is back after a year in London and Philip Rogan is also back in the fold after a spell at Downshire Young Men. It is also hoped that former Glentoran and Glenavon midfielder Connor Walsh will make a return after almost two years out of action.

The Mills travel to Grove United in the first round of the Steel and Sons Cup on Saturday before facing Downpatrick next Tuesday night at Rosconnor. They then travel to Crewe United on August 19 in the first round of the Tennents Irish Cup before entertaining newly-promoted East Belfast in the league on Tuesday, 22. 

Should they beat Grove United, the Mills will take on Ballynahinch United in the second round of the Steel and Sons Cup at Millbridge on Saturday, August 26.

It’s all change at Killyleagh Showgrounds as former player and ex-second team manager Paul Sharvin takes charge.

Remarkably, it is the sixth consecutive season that the YC have started the season with a new manager. His assistant is ex-Ards legend David Straney.

Sharvin is the last manager to bring silverware to The Showgrounds as boss of the Walter Moore Cup winning team 11 years ago and he has been quick off the mark to strengthen a side which has flirted with the wrong end of the table in Division 1A for the last two seasons.

Adam Neale (Downshire Young Men) and Jordan Kennedy (Ballynahinch United) have returned while the new signings include Sharvin’s youngest son Jack (Glenavon) and Chris Rowan. 

On the move away are Gary Murray (Newcastle) and Peter Strain (Comber Rec).

They open with a Steel and Sons trip to Mossley Young Men before travelling to take on Sirocco in the league next Tuesday night. Newbuildings provide the opposition in the Irish Cup on Saturday 19 and three days later Killyleagh are at home to Abbey Villa in the league.

Kilmore Rec, who avoided relegation from 1A at the end of last season after only one team went down, were rocked to the core last week when manager John Murray unexpectedly handed in his resignation. The club moved quickly to appoint his successor and the position has been filled by former midfielder John Young.

He has inherited all of last year’s squad and has welcomed former West Bromwich, Glentoran and Larne midfielder B J McMenamin back to Robert Adams Park. 

Kilmore open with a home game against St Patrick’s Young Men in the Steel and Sons Cup before travelling to Abbey Villa in the league on Tuesday night. They then face a derby encounter when they entertain Newcastle in the league on Tuesday, August 22. 

If they beat St Patrick’s on Saturday they will then travel to play either Bangor or Donegal Celtic in the second round of the Steel and Sons Cup.

Ballynahinch Olympic, who will be playing their home games at Robert Adams Park, have Liam Sloan, Marty Hughes and Francie McGoran in the management team.

They welcome back Nathan Jones after a spell with Queen’s and Dundela and Dalton Tate from Ballynahinch United, although he did play for Olympic at youth level. Paddy Flanagan has come out of retirement to help out and former Kilmore skipper Stevie Rogan has been at pre-season training.

The club is also hopeful that a number of last year’s successful U-18 side will make their breakthrough into the first team squad.

Olympic face a tough start to the season as they travel to Shimna College to take on Newcastle in the league before travelling to take on Comber Rec next Tuesday night. A journey across the water to face old rivals Portaferry in the Irish Cup on August 19 awaits and they get their first home game on Thursday, August 24, when they face Orangefield in the league.

Another clash with Newcastle, this time at Robert Adams Park, follows on Saturday, August 26, in the second round of the Steel and Sons Cup.

It’s pretty much a case of as you were at Newcastle where Ciaran Brannigan is in charge. He may have lost Ruairi Doran, who has moved back to take on the manager’s job at Mourne Rovers, Connaire Harrison Conor Fegan, but has added Gary Murray (Killyleagh YC) and Nathan McAleese (Tollymore United) to his squad.

Brannigan is also planning on giving several of the club’s younger players a chance in the first team with Sean Og Kelly and Leigh Moore hoping to impress.

Newcastle start with a home league game against Ballynahinch Olympic before travelling to Kilmore Rec on Tuesday, August 22 and back to the same venue four days later for a Steel and Sons Cup date with Ballynahinch Olympic.

Ballynahinch United will be hoping to improve on last season’s disappointing showing in Division 1B and have Alan Davis as their new manager.

He has lost Bryan McMullan and Aaron Cheevers to Banbridge Rangers, Dalton Tate to Ballynahinch Olympic and Matty Shaw to Drumaness Mills, but he has brought in Michael Vladeanu and intends giving the club’s successful youth players a chance.

United are at home to Rosario in the league on Saturday before taking on Dromara Village at Millbridge next Tuesday night. They then face Rosario again in the Irish Cup on the 19th before travelling to UUJ on Thursday 24 for a league game. 

Gerard McMahon remains in charge at Dromara Village and he is intent on maintaining the run that saw the club unbeaten in their last 14 games of last season.

All of last season’s squad have been retained and in come goalkeeper Marty Marron from Newry City, Jordan Hutchins from Ballymacash Rangers, Marcus Murphy from Dungannon Swifts and Brian Canavan from Belfast Celtic.               

First up is a league game away to Barn United before a trip to face Ballynahinch United next Tuesday night. Saturday, August 19, sees another away game to Royal British Legion in the second round of the Steel and Sons Cup and three days later they take on Colin Valley in the league at Bells Bridge.

Portaferry manager Kieran Mageean has added Paul Convery and DD Fitzsimons to his back room team and they will be hoping to build on last year’s success for the club’s second team when they won the Templeton Cup.

All of last year’s squad are back and the trio will also be looking to blood some of the club’s younger players in a highly-competitive division.

They don’t start until next Tuesday night when they entertain Dundonald in the league and four days later entertain Ballynahinch Olympic in the Irish Cup. They then have a home league game on Thursday 24 against Ballywalter Rec before entertaining Glebe Rangers in the second round of the Steel and Sons Cup on August 26.

Saintfield, with Adam Kelly in the hot seat, welcome back Josh Johnston-Wood from university and goalkeeper David Harper from injury. All of last year’s squad are back and Kelly is hoping that U-17 skipper Matthew Haughey and a few others will make an impact at senior level this year.

The Saints have a home game in the league against St Luke’s on Saturday before entertaining Shorts three days later, also in the league.

An Irish Cup home tie against Tandragee Rovers will take place on the 19th before another home game in the Steel and Sons Cup against Rosario on the 26th.

Castlewellan and Ballynagross have another few weeks to wait before their season starts.