Belfast Telegraph

New Year could be a Goodyear

By Martin Mawhinney

Sometimes in football journalism, it is difficult to avoid a cliché or a pun – and in the case of Goodyear, it is almost impossible.

Yes, it has been a very good year for the Craigavon men, who have announced their return to the Mid Ulster League after a two-year absence with a bang.

Reformed and rejuvenated, Goodyear are in the perfect position to mount a serious title challenge in the first half of 2014, and if they can land a handful of wins from their remaining seven league games, they must surely be considered among the favourites to take the Division 4 title.

However, rather than wanting to build on a winning momentum, the forthcoming Christmas break – two weeks without any matches across the Mid Ulster League unless clubs request otherwise - couldn’t have come at a better time for Goodyear.

Their relieved manager James McConville confessed: “We started off very convincingly, but over the past few weeks, we have just about beaten one of the bottom sides, Castlecaulfield in the league and the cup, and we have had two defeats in a row.

“It has been non-stop since the start of the season, but now I think we need a break. We need to just get a pint together and have a week or two away from football and get ourselves refreshed.

“We had a free week on Saturday and then we are off for the next two weeks. I think it’s come at just the right time.”

Goodyear, in its current state, is made mostly of players from the former Lonsdale League side Loughgrove, who were a growing force in their division.

Having finished second in Division Two in their first season, they turned down the opportunity of promotion and won the division at the second time of asking.

In their third season they finished second in Division One – and it was in this summer that they were approached by those who ran the former Goodyear side to amalgamate and re-enter the Mid Ulster League.

Now, in their debut Division 4 campaign, McConville is clear about what he wants to achieve.

He said: “I used to play for Goodyear, and there are photos around the club of them winning trophies. I remember them as a good Division Two side.

“In the social club, there is a space for a picture of us. I have told the boys that space is for them when they win the league this year. At the very least, I want promotion.”

The move was a no-brainer for Loughgrove, who were seeking an area to gather and to train, and since then they haven’t looked back.

Indeed, there is only one member of the previous Goodyear team still plying his trade for the current crop.

Gerard Donnelly is a rock in the Goodyear defence, and has helped newcomers like Jason Baylis settle in to the club, making them a formidable force this season.

But does McConville believe his players have adapted well enough to Mid Ulster football to actually finish above all of their rivals come May?

“I’d say Knockmenagh Swifts and Union Lusa are a big threat – we have played them both and drawn with them both, so the remaining games against those two are going to be massive.

“Teams like Castlecaulfield, Newmills and CTA Athletic have upped their game too, and their position in the table doesn’t really reflect how they have been playing, so it will an interesting finish to the season.

“But, yes, going on everything I have seen so far, I am confident we can finish this campaign successfully.”  

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