Belfast Telegraph

Basement undaunted by hectic fixture backlog

By Martin Mawhinney

We have reached that point of the year when the nights start getting longer, the temperature begins to rise, and as sure as Spring has sprung, there will be a horrendous fixture backlog awaiting some unfortunate Amateur League clubs.

This season, Basement happen to be one of those in question. Yet you won’t their manager bemoan the fact that they will be playing a series of Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday fixtures for some time to come.

That’s because Ed Heaney, the man in charge of the north Belfast-based outfit, is 100 per cent into what he does. He loves it - even, he admits, a little too much for the liking of some!

“My wife tells me if I put as much time and commitment into my home-life as I do with the football, I’d be a keeper,” he states with a chuckle, while considering the daunting schedule confronting his players over the next few weeks.

“You hear a lot of managers moaning about all the games their teams have to play at this time of year, but we are relishing it. Our boys just love playing.”

That, of course, isn’t to dismiss out of hand what will be a gruelling climax to the Division 2B title chasers’ campaign. Indeed, Heaney believes that it will be the team who can handle the hefty tally of games that finishes top of the heap.

“It’s probably the only thing that could go against us, but the same goes for (the other main title contenders) Ardoyne. It is probably all down to who has the greater strength in depth.

“We do have a big squad, but with so many games to go, everybody is going to get their chance. Everybody has to be ready - people have to get the transport sorted, the kitman has to have three kits a week ready, and the players have to be ready and raring to go. There is a lot of work to do, but we are looking forward to it.”

No question there is a lot of positivity in the Basement camp as they gear up to claim a second successive title since joining the Northern Amateur Football League.

However, there is also some frustration with the manner in which circumstances have made life particularly tricky for them as they see out their remaining 11 league fixtures.

He said: “Basically, we have half our season still to play. We did well in the Junior Shield, but went out early in the Junior Cup early. Ardoyne have done well in both competitions, and yet somehow we are only three games ahead of them. We have had quite few games called off, due to the weather - it’s something beyond our control.

“But I was surprised to get an email from the Amateur League the other day telling us that we had to have all our games played by May 2. That seems quite early this year, and there doesn’t seem to be any flexibility with it. The only thing is that Adoyne will have the same problem.”

So does Heaney accept that it will now be a traditional two-horse race for the 2B  crown?

“It looks as if it’s shaping up that way,” said the Basement boss, “but Newtownbreda still have to us to play twice, and Ardoyne, too. Ardoyne still have us and Portavogie to play twice each… so really, there a few teams around us who could have a big say.

“Us and Ardoyne have the games in hand, but you have to go out and win them. Our priority has always been promotion this season, but if you offered me second place now, I wouldn’t take it. Not when there’s still the title to play for.”

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