Crumlin United boss Kelly says his boys are in it to win it
It may be common for league front-runners to talk down their title chances, but you will never get such false modesty from Crumlin United manager Paddy Kelly.
The Mill Road have made an immediate impact since their promotion to Amateur League Premier Division, taking top spot after five games with three victories and two defeats.
It may not be where he expected to be at this stage of affairs, but now that Kelly and his side are there, they are determined not to relinquish it.
The United boss admitted: “Am I surprised? Probably - especially after the first few games.
“The first was against Kilmore Rec, we beat them 1-0, and it didn’t feel like that big a step up. Then losing against Derriaghy CC and Shankill United gave us a real insight of how tough this league can be. But to go and beat two teams seven after that (7-2 away to Ardglass and 7-0 home to Islandmagee) was something else.
“It just seems to be that sort of a league… one week you are down in the dumps, and the next, you are flying.
“In fairness, we have yet to play any of the teams that anyone is talking about for the title - the likes of Ards Rangers, Immaculata, Albert Foundry, so we won’t know where we really are until we play them.
“Downpatrick are probably mentioned more than us in terms of challenging, and rightly so, as they won last season. But we weren’t that far behind them, and we have improved.
“There is no point in going into the Premier Division saying that you can’t win - everybody is in it to win it, and we are no different.”
So what has been the reason for Crumlin United’s recent rich form? Kelly isn’t the type of manager to bestow credit upon himself, though he deserves some for the changes he has made to reverse their fortunes. So too, do the players, who are giving this club reason to be positive about the remainder of this season.
Kelly explained: “We went to Larne Tech in the Steel & Sons Cup and they deservedly beat us 4-0. They scored two early goals and so we were always chasing the game from there.
“We were creating so many chances without scoring, so I changed things slightly and put Pat McCafferty, who had been playing wide right for us but I knew he could score goals from when he played for me at Donegal Celtic, up front with Conor McGuigan, a 19-year-old from the reserves.”
That switch in particular has been reaping its rewards in a major way, with McGuigan having bagged himself a hat-trick in each of those recent emphatic league wins, while McCafferty netted a total of three strikes in the respective goal-fests.
There is no doubt it - in the short number of weeks since the start of the season, it has been a rollercoaster ride for United, and with such goal-scoring exploits, that theme looks set to continue.
That may be music to the ears of the Mill Road faithful who turn up to cheer their team on every week, but does it also ring true with their manager?
“I don’t mind conceding a few goals, as long as we are on the right side of the scoreline,” smiled Kelly. “The team that plays well all season is the team that wins it… and hopefully that is Crumlin United.”