Club Focus: Free-scoring Dundela ready for Cliftonville test
When Dundela take to the pitch at Solitude on Tuesday night to face Cliftonville in the League Cup they will be the only unbeaten League team in the country.
This piece of trivia shows how far the east Belfast side have come in recent years. Mark Snodden's men currently lead the Belfast Telegraph Championship, while they are one of the favourites to win this season's Steel & Sons Cup.
The Duns are edging their way back towards their former glory, defying the odds and scoring goals along the way. So far this year, Dundela have scored an incredible amount goals. Their tally now stands at a staggering 51 goals in 10 games. That's an average of over five goals a game – the great Barcelona average just shy of three goals a game this term.
It's all a far cry from their days in the third tier of the Irish League.
In 2008 the Duns were relegated from the old First Division despite finishing second in the division, as their ground didn't meet the IFA's new Championship standards. That demotion hurt the grand club, with many of their best players departing for pastures new.
After four years in third tier purgatory, the Duns finally reclaimed their spot in the second tier finishing second in Championship Two and claiming promotion to Championship One.
In their first year back in the second tier, they competed for the title before eventually finishing a respectable fourth.
Despite losing the influential figures of William Faulkner, Ben Roy and Mark McClelland to Ards, the Duns have come back even stronger. They currently lead Championship One by two points, with a Steel & Sons Cup quarter-final on the horizon. While Dundela are unlikely to apply for a licence to allow them to gain promotion to the Premiership, there is still a feel-good factor at Wilgar Park.
But can they go one better and topple Premiership champions Cliftonville?
Manager Mark Snodden isn't getting carried away.
“Over the past couple of years Cliftonville have probably been the best side in the country, so we know we are up against formidable opposition, but we are looking forward to the challenge.
“The Welders went to Solitude in the last round (they lost 3-0) and by all accounts gave them a good game. They were in the match for a long time and made Cliftonville work for their wins, and we would like to do the same.
“If you're a Championship player this is the sort of game you look forward to, it's the sort of match that you relish. It's opportunity to test yourself against some of the best players in the country at one of the biggest grounds in the league – if you don't look forward to that sort of experience there is something wrong.
“It's a big challenge for us, but we like to play the ball on the deck and so do Cliftonville, so I think it will be a good game for the fans. I'm looking forward to it.”
While it's not impossible, to win at Solitude might a stretch too far for the Duns. A fairer question might be, can Dundela win the league?
Paul Kee's Institute will certainly provide stiff competition, while the old guard Bangor and Lisburn Distillery can't be ruled out either. Dundela's old rivals Harland & Wolff Welders have also impressed this season, while it's likely that new manager Gary Haveron will reboot Carrick Rangers in the January transfer window.
But Dundela have a squad that includes talented youngsters such as Kyle Cherry, Owain Beggs and Daniel Burns, as well as experienced campaigners Michael Halliday and David Murphy.
Certainly, there are no shortage of teams waiting for Dundela to slip up, but if recent history has taught us anything it's that you can't afford to underestimate Mark Snodden's team.
Name: Dundela Football Club
Nicknames: The Duns
Ground: Wilgar Park
Gaffer: Mark Snodden
Skipper: David Murphy
Sharpshooter: Carl McComb who is on loan from Glentoran
Hard Man: Experienced player Gary Walker
Most Skillful: Owain Beggs
Best Moment: Beating Glenavon in the 1955 Irish Cup Final
Belfast Telegraph Digital