Belfast Telegraph

Kilroot Rec boss Alan Craig remains optimistic despite poor season

By Martin Mawhinney

It may have been a season to forget for Division 1C basement club Kilroot Rec, but that hasn’t stopped manager Alan Craig from plucking the positives from their disappointing campaign.

The Whitehead-based outfit have so far only managed one paltry point from 26 league games this point, but in spite of the vast amount of morale-sapping that inevitably follows conceding 143 goals and counting, Craig insists all is not doom and gloom at Castleview Road.

The Kilroot boss’s optimism is admirable, but he does have a point.

For a start, it takes a lot of character within a squad to withstand that level of regular punishment… and while the results have been far from what he would like them to have been, Craig has been delighted with his team’s overall attitude and commitment levels throughout.

He said: "There’s a small core players who are there, every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and they want to play football for Kilroot. It isn’t easy and it isn’t pretty – I know that myself, as I see it every week – but they deserve a lot of credit for sticking with us.

"One of the big reasons we have struggled this season has just been bad luck with our key players.

"We had talked Simon Hamilton out of retirement, but he broke his metatarsal in our first match to rule him out for most of the season. Then in our second match, we lost Chris Harris to a cruciate ligament injury and when he was due to come back, he emigrated to Australia. They would have been two of our best players, and real leaders – the sort of players you build a team around.

"Then another experienced player, Christopher Blainey, moved abroad just before Christmas, another wee lad with a lot of promise, Bradley Spence, got his nose broken and when he came back, he got his leg broken in two places, Johnny McFettridge moved to Barn United and our signing from Chimney Corner, Craig Leworthy, hasn’t been able to play that much for us due to a new job he got in November.

"It has all added up for us... you just couldn’t make it up."   

Another important consideration for all connected with Kilroot is that the club’s fate is not yet decided. Whether they are relegated or not depends on whether Rosemount Rec win Division 2A.

Craig explained: "As far as I know, they are the only club who can come up from 2A if they win it, with the ground criteria and everything, and at the minute, they aren’t top of the league… so that will have a big factor in things for us.

"I know sometimes people say that it can help for a club to go down the leagues, to give them a chance to rebuild a club, but I don’t think that applies to us. I don’t think 2A is any less of a playing standard that 1C, but even more important than that is the fact we would lose our intermediate status if we get relegated.

"That would be massive for us, because it would become a lot more difficult to attract players if we aren’t playing in intermediate competitions like the Steel & Sons and Intermediate Cup any more, as well as the Irish Cup, of course."

Craig has indicated that plans are afoot to introduce a number of initiatives to entice young players and new blood to Kilroot in time for next season, although these won’t be made public until the end of the current campaign.

What happens with Rosemount in the days ahead may be as likely to have an influence on new player numbers as any of those proposals.   

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