Derriaghy not setting off for the sun any time soon
We may well have enjoyed the sunniest week of the year, but no-one at Derriaghy CC is preparing to head to the beach just yet.
The Dunmurry-based side have enjoyed a fine debut campaign in the Amateur Premier Division, and have all but secured their top-flight status for next season…but player-manager Marc Robinson won’t rest until he knows they have made absolutely certain.
With nine games still to play before the end of the season, the reality is that with Derriaghy probably only need to win two of those to stay afloat, although last Thursday’s defeat against relegation battlers Shankill United served as a timely reminder of the dangers of taking anything for granted.
As things stand, there are a host of clubs who may have thought they were otherwise safe in the Amateur League’s top division, but may now find themselves dragged into a fight against the drop. Robinson is determined to ensure his will not be one of them.
“I don’t want anyone thinking we are safe, or almost safe,” he stated. “We have got to fight to the end, no matter what.
“Our target at the start of the season was to get enough points to stay in the Premier, and if or when we get that, I’ll want us to keep pushing. There are people coming back from injury, and everyone needs to be fighting for their place. There are also other teams going for the league title, so it has to be fair to everyone.”
This time last year, it was Derriaghy pushing for title honours, but in Division 1A - an accolade they eventually did achieve.
And while the dream for the club was always for to get the Seycon Park club into the top level of the amateur game, Robinson admits it hasn’t all been plain sailing.
When asked if he has enjoyed Derriaghy’s maiden season in the Premier Division, Robinson stated: “I have and I haven’t - if that makes sense. To be honest, we have a good team, but once you are missing three or four players, you notice the difference. It’s going to be a case of strengthening this summer.
“This has been my third year, and it’s also been the toughest year. In 1A, you had three or four quality teams, and we were winning games regularly 4 or 5 nil. That doesn’t happen now.”
As well as a noticeable jump in class between the top two divisions, Robinson also feels - not unlike other managers at this level - that there is a price to be paid for progress in the knockout competitions.
A season that has included reaching the fourth round of the Intermediate Cup, and the high-profile fifth of the Irish Cup should be toasted as an encouraging sign of progress, and still there persists a niggling feeling that such perceived success can damage a league campaign.
Goalkeeper Robinson remarked: “It sounds silly to say, but coming into April, we were just hitting the halfway point of our season, in terms of league games played. It feels like you get punished for doing well in the cups.”
And while Derriaghy are close to achieving their goal for this season, they will continue to strive and to set the bar higher in the longer term future.
Robinson added: “Our first season has been all about surviving. Maybe next season, it will be about getting halfway up the league… and one of these years, pushing for the Premier Division title.
“Because this is an ambitious club, and the board members will always want success and we all want to keep pushing this club as high as we can go.”