End of season a long way off as Downpatrick work through fixture backlog
Downpatrick harbour ambitions for a strong end to their first season back in the Premier Division, despite the fact that they must complete HALF of their league fixtures for the entire campaign in less than a month.
The Rosconnor Playing Fields outfit last week secured their place in this season’s Clarence Cup final after defeating Lisburn Rangers 2-0, but by the time the May 25 showpiece finale comes around, they will have squeezed in a massive 12 league games - by far the most of any team in the Amateur League.
Even if they do manage to win all of their five games in hand over league leaders Immaculata, they will only be able to bring themselves to within seven points of the summit. Nevertheless, the club’s joint manager Joe McMahon believes his side are capable of firing on both fronts despite their challenging circumstances, and is urging them to finish with a flourish.
He said: “It’s not ideal, and Immaculata do have the type of lead that everyone would like, but it can change with one bad injury or a moment out of the blue. Everything can fall apart in an instant, and we have to be in a position to capitalise if it does.
“I’d be surprised if Ards Rangers gave up their title without a fight, and Crumlin Star are like us, they have a few games to make up on the rest, but will be waiting for Immaculata to slip.
“I can see them wanting to make a real statement this year, and they are capable of doing that, but they still have a lot of important matches to play, and you don’t know what might happen. We will be pushing till the end.”
Up until now, the biggest issue for Downpatrick and their fixture schedule has been with getting home games underway. That has been a problem for many clubs, but Downpatrick continually deal with it more than most each season.
It means that the league itself and the clubs within it regularly find themselves making arrangements around this consideration where possible, to ensure the fixture list runs as smoothly as possible.
McMahon explained: “Obviously our committee goes to the league meetings during the winter knowing the condition the pitch is in, and often requesting for away games. Overall, clubs are happy to rearrange games with us in the league to get the game fulfilled, and we have even been willing to give up home advantage in the cup competitions.
“I have to give the Amateur League credit - they really do have their hands full, especially at this time of year, and they do a good job with arranging the fixtures. However, there is still a little bit of tweaking that could be done here and there.
“For instance, our semi-final against Lisburn Rangers was last Wednesday. That meant us losing out on two league fixtures during the week, but that didn’t need to be the case.”
However, the overriding hope around Downpatrick is that concerns like these will soon be a thing of the past. The new pitch and facilities that the club, and town in general, have long craved, looks as though they are finally about to materialise, and could well be the symbol of a bright future for Downpatrick as they enter an exciting new era.
McMahon added: “I like to stay on the football side of things, especially because over the last four or five years we have heard false things that have turned out to be Chinese whispers.
“But from what I’ve heard, a new floodlit 4G pitch with changing rooms, beside the Racecourse on the Ballyduggan Road, has been passed and put out to tenure. I imagine the work will be starting around May, with us hopefully able to start playing on it in October or November.
“We really need it. It has got to the stage where if there was a stumbling block for some reason, it would leave everyone so deflated - you wouldn't believe the amount of people involved with it. The club is on the up, the team is on the up, and this will be a great way to keep it all going.”