McDonagh backs Comber Rec for top flight promotion
Comber Rec manager Philip McDonagh believes he has everything he needs to deliver the club a swift return to the Amateur League Premier Division.
The Park Way side paid the ultimate price for poor end-of-season form with relegation to Division 1A, yet the signs for the new season are very promising, with supporters hopeful that an early burst out of the traps is a sign of things to come.
In many ways, the first two league fixtures were probably viewed among the Comber faithful with a fair amount of trepidation, but in reality, an away double-header against Dromara Village and Killyleagh YC was the ideal test for McDonagh’s side.
He said: “We knew it would be a big challenge, as soon as the fixtures came out. With Killyleagh having been relegated with us, and going back to my old club at Dromara, I knew it could be a tricky start.
“We ended up with a 1-0 win in the Killyleagh game, but I have never seen a more one-sided 1-0. We could have been up by double-figures, and a few of their supporters said the same thing to me after the game.
“Before that, in the Dromara game, there were still a few young players from my time there, and I was a wee bit worried because we were missing Gerard McVeigh, Darren McNamee and Andy Scott, three key players, and yet we won 4-1. We had a young team out, with two 21-year-olds and two 19-year-olds in the midfield as well. So yes, it has been a pleasing start.”
Of course, he knows there is plenty of work to be done to ensure this winning momentum continues throughout the campaign.
A key part of McDonagh’s preparation during a busy summer has been ensuring he has the right personnel in place, as he seeks to learn the lessons from last season.
He said: “I have brought players in who have the right attitude. There were times last season, when I was being let down on a Saturday or at training. I have kept players who are fully committed and I have added to that.
“The good thing is that there has been interest from other clubs in some of the players, but thankfully, they showed loyalty to the club. They have taken responsibility for what has happened to the club, and want to put it right… and rightfully so.”
McDonagh has thrown the net far and wide, with Chris Rafferty brought in from Brantwood and Aaron Thompson from Sport & Leisure Swifts, not to mention a raft of players from around the Amateur League - Joe McKinney (Kilmore Rec), Kyle Kirkpatrick (Suffolk), Thomas Murray (St Oliver Plunkett) and Stephen McCorry (Malachians).
There is no question that this current line-up have plenty of promise and potential. Comber’s pre-season schedule, which was undoubtedly a tale of quality over quantity, saw them undefeated against three Championship opponents, with 4-3 and 4-2 victories over Lisburn Distillery and Dundela respectively, and a 5-5 draw against Sport & Leisure.
The real question will be if that potential can be fully realised with promotion back into the Premier Division come May.
McDonagh added: “I am excited about the players we have here, and confident of our chances. It can take a bit of luck, too, but if we can keep these players fit, we should be there or thereabouts.”