Club Focus: Finaghy YM
Former Crusaders and Glenavon man Gareth Murray believes 2015 will be an exciting year for Division 2C club Finaghy YM.
Murray is now the manager of the South Belfast side, who are aiming to claim promotion into 2B this season. Promotion is something Murray knows all about, as he was part of the Glenavon side that won the Promotion/Relegation play-off against Crusaders in 2005.
Reflecting on his career, Murray said: “I started off at Crusaders as a youngster under Roy Walker along with guys like Chris Morgan and Ian Young. We won the Irish League when I was at Seaview and I was lucky enough to play with guys like Glenn Dunlop and Glenn Hunter, but I left the club to study in America.
“When I returned home, I played under Tommy Kincaid for a number of years. I loved Crusaders but I actually played in the Glenavon team that relegated them in a play-off, which was quite tough for me personally.
“I loved playing in the Irish League but then came work, children and life and it became more difficult to find the time to commit to training. I'm now enjoying my football in the Amateur League.
“When I first starting playing for Finaghy, I had to adjust to a different culture, particularly when it comes to training. I think that's been one of the things I've been able to help with. I was able to introduce things I'd learnt from all the different managers I'd played under.
“It's not all about running. We do a lot of short, sharp sessions now and I think the players enjoy that. There's a different focus at this level, so you need to make sure you're enjoying it.”
Murray hung up the boots at the end of last season and stepped into the dugout to take charge of Finaghy.
Looking back on the last 12 months, he said: “I think 2014 has been a good year for Finaghy, although it has been a year of transition.
“I only took over in the summer, after Johnny Houston left due to work commitments. I've spent the last couple of years playing for Finaghy and I was happy to take on the role of manager.
“It's been a challenging but enjoyable experience. My first challenge was to bring the average age down, because as a squad we had quite a lot of experience.
“We also worked on our fitness over the summer. Finaghy have always been a club that knew how to play football but sometimes we were found short when it came to fitness.
“We also have a squad of 19 now, which means we're not scraping round trying to get 14 bodies for a Saturday afternoon. Thankfully that means I don't have to play!
“As this was my first stint in management, I perhaps didn't realise how much went into organising pre-season and training. We had a chat at the start of the season and all the lads bought into the idea of working harder at training and trying to make training twice a week.”
If 2014 was a good year for Finaghy, Murray believes 2015 could be even better.
“We started well in the league and we've only lost one game, so I'm hoping we will be in the promotion mix come the end of the season.
“We've had a few silly draws so if we could cut that out then I think we would have a good chance. We're improving all the time”
At this moment in time, Murray isn't planning on coaching in the Amateur League, but he hasn't ruled out the possibility.
“I've no plans to manage at a higher level at the moment, I've no five-year plan that I'm driving at, I'm just concentrating on Finaghy and enjoying my football.
“That said, I never planned to become a manager at all. I always thought I'd be down the pub with my mates on Saturday after I finished playing, but life hasn't panned out that way. I'm just taking things as they come, who knows that the future holds.”
Club : Finaghy Football Club
Division : NAFL 2C
Ground : Wedderburn Park
Colours : Blue
Manager : Gareth Murray
Belfast Telegraph Digital