It gives me great pride in writing my last manager’s report of the season as league champions. This has been a terrific end to our first season back in football and is a just reward for the amount of hard work that has gone on both on and off the field. To win the league and reserve cup at the first attempt with a team made up of young local players is a great achievement for all involved. This time last year we were busy sorting off the field matters in preparation for the new season and didn’t have a single senior player at the club. Chris McMahon was the first player to sign for the club and he has repaid the faith I had in him by lifting the league title and setting a great example to the rest of the squad.
It has been a long season but we have enjoyed every minute of it from our first game away to Bourneview Young Men through to our league winning game at Richill. We have been warmly received at every club we have visited and we appreciate the hospitality shown to players, staff and supporters alike. To lose only one league game all season is also a great achievement in itself along with the fact that we were unbeaten away from home in the league. I would have liked to have fared better in the cup competitions but would have taken a league title over any amount of cups. To be the last remaining Mid-Ulster team in the Irish Cup was something we hope to build on.
We know next season will be tougher but preparations are ongoing to hopefully strengthen the squad. The players have been terrific from the very first night of preseason and have bought into what Jervis, Micky, Raymie and I have asked them to do. Their attitude and willingness to learn along with the excellent team spirit they forged has earned them a fitting reward. Our fitness levels have also stood by us throughout the season with the sessions implemented by Cathal Fegan and Conor Murphy paying dividends. This hard work has benefitted the reserve team in their brilliant cup win with Gary, Kevin, Marty and Stephen helping them in their progress.
A club of our size deserves to be playing at a higher level but we have no divine right to be there and we know the higher we go the tougher it will be. However I believe we have a strong basis for progress and as a group we will ensure that we give ourselves every opportunity to do so. The committee have done terrific work in their first season much of which goes unseen. They also realise that there is a lot of work still to be done but are more than willing to put the time and effort in. Our sponsors have also played their part in the clubs progress and hopefully they will continue to do so.
I am also delighted that our supporters have finally got something to cheer about after all that went on at the club. I often hear managers praising their fans as the best in the country but many of those clubs have never been wound up. It would have been easy for our fans to follow another team but they stuck by us through thick and thin and have been an absolute credit to the club. They have been like a twelfth man at times and have brought plenty of humour to away grounds. On behalf of the players I would like to thank them and hopefully we can continue to repay their faith.
We will finish our season with our presentation night in the Canal Court this Saturday night with a large crowd expected. To have the league trophy in the same room as the club was reformed is something we could only dream about at the time. Club legend Ollie Ralph will be in attendance presenting the awards along with league medals. He was in attendance at our last home game and gave us the best compliment I could have wished for when he said ‘you played your way to the league title’. I believe we have played football in the right manner and will hopefully continue to do so in the season ahead.
Yours in sport,