Belfast Telegraph

Smith looking to lead Coagh United to safety

By Keith Bailie

The man charged with keeping Coagh United in the Northern Ireland Football League is former Loughgall midfielder Andy Smith.

The Mid Ulster club are currently near the bottom of Championship Two and they're fighting desperately to avoid relegation into regional football.

At just 31 years of age, Smith is one of the youngest managers in the Championship, but the former Carrick Rangers man believes this is the right time for him to move into management. Smith was given the job earlier this month after Coagh made a poor start to the season.

Smith said: “I got a taste for coaching at the Milk Cup and I've seen guys in their early 30s do well in management like David McAlinden at Larne, which inspired me.

“I know Davy very well as we played together when we were younger and we played together at Ards. I've talked to him a good bit and I'd like to follow in his footsteps. I think it's a really good thing that younger guys are getting their chance in management.

“I've always wanted to get into management, whether it was now or in five years time. When I got the call to say the Coagh job was mine if I wanted it, I couldn't turn it down. Coagh are a club with a great history, great training facilities, a hard working board and a loyal fan base. It's a fantastic set-up and I'm looking forward to the task.”

Smith started the season at Loughgall after leaving Ards in February. Although Smith is focusing on managing Coagh, he does intend to register himself as a player when the transfer window opens.

“I haven't hung the boots up yet and I plan to register myself in January but I see playing as a last resort. Primarily I'll be the manager and I'll only play if I feel I can really add something to the team.

“Our aim is to avoid relegation. It doesn't matter if it's by one point or by 10, my job is to keep Coagh in the League.

“The squad needs a bit of work but we do have a number of players out injured. Stephen Uprichard and Noel Mitchell were here for 12 years and they did a great job, constantly fighting for cups and winning promotion. It's a tough act to follow but I'm looking forward to the challenge.

“It's up to me to entice new players to the club and to get the best out of the ones that are here. It can be tough to attract players because Coagh is a out in the sticks but when you get here you realise what fantastic facilities we have.”

On Saturday, Coagh drew 2-2 with derby rivals Tobermore United, who are also fighting against the drop. Although Smith was pleased with the performance, conceding a 90th minute equaliser was a source of frustration.

“We were 2-1 up and conceded an equaliser in the 90th minute. That obviously leaves a bad taste in the mouth but a draw was probably a fair result on the balance of play. We did well in the first half but we didn't come out for the second half.

“With the two clubs only 10 miles apart and both near the bottom of the table it was a good game. We certainly have to improve but I think we've got something to build on.”

At the end of the season the bottom team will be relegated out of Championship Two. The second bottom team will also be relegated if one of the regional champions applies to join the division.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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