Belfast Telegraph

Kerr positive about the future in his new role at Drumaness

By Martin Mawhinney

As the majority of Amateur League teams get ready to kick off the first round of the Clarence Cup this weekend, it’s a good opportunity for managers to think ahead to where they will be when the final swings around in May - and Drumaness Mills’ Mark Kerr is no different.

The former Blackers Mill boss and Banbridge Town assistant manager took over at Meadowvale from departing manager Desi Campbell two months into the new campaign - a situation which many would see as far from ideal - yet Kerr has a positive outlook about his circumstances.

Results have been generally positive, with a recent league outing to Premier Division champions Ards yielding a 3-3 draw, and Kerr insists that he hasn’t exactly been thrown into the deep end at an awkward point of the season.

The Drumaness boss said: “I am very lucky, in that I was here as a second team manager about 10 years ago, and a lot of the first team played for me back then, so I know them well.

“Barry Kelly stayed on and Ricky Graham has come onboard with me, but the truth is that we can’t take a lot of the credit for how things have been going. That has to go to the players… they have been tremendous. I can’t fault their commitment.

“There is a core of between seven and 10 players who have been with this club, and have worked hard to keep this club where they are. We are very lucky in that regard. What we have to think about is going to happen when the Paul Walshs, Gavin McEvoys and Sean McQuoids hang up their boots.”

There are still a few years to go before that happens, but Kerr is wise to consider the future of the club at this juncture before it becomes a pertinent issue.

The establishment of groups at Under 6, Under 8, and Under 10 will hopefully sow the seeds for the longer term, but it will be up to Kerr, Graham and Kelly to ensure continuity in between times.

Kerr continued: “The message to us coming in was to steady the ship. When this club won the Premier Division and Clarence Cup double, it wasn’t able to keep the same standard in the next season. We need to look at why that was, and to build it to a place where it is sustainable.”

Indeed, last season turned out to be something of a shock to the system when, in their bid to defend their Premier Division crown, they finished the campaign just three points above relegated Comber Rec.

Currently sixth in the table, with 15 points from 14 games, there is a very real chance this could be a season where neither relegation nor title challenges are on the agenda - leaving the Clarence Cup as a point of major focus.

When asked about Drumaness’ prospects for the rest of the season, Kerr added: “If you offered me us to finish a place above relegation, I wouldn’t take it. That would be too pessimistic.

“Given the start we’ve made, I’d maybe take sixth or seventh. We have played more games than most of the other teams, so it’s fair to say we are in a bit of a false position at the minute. There are a group of teams that we probably won’t be able to catch this season, but mid-table would be progress for us.   

“We are unfortunate that when we arrived, we were already out of a few competitions, but the Clarence Cup is very winnable, and we’ll be doing our best in it.

“The beauty of a competition like that is that you can get thrown up against teams who may be further down the pyramid, but are progressing well and can beat a team from the top division on their day. There’s no doubting that Ardoyne WMC are a quality side, although we will be favourites - it’s just a case of us living up to that tag.”

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