Intermediate Cup winners 2020 – it’s not bad for “little Dollingstown from out the road in the country”.
Manager Stephen Uprichard laughs at the thought that the club have got their hands on the 127-year-old trophy for the first time.
Dollingstown FC hasn’t even been in existence for a third of the time the trophy has been on the go and, representing a village of little over 2,000 people, are in only their fourth season in the NI Football League.
Thursday evening’s deserved 2-0 victory over Newington, thanks to goals from former Glenavon forward Gary Liggett and Johnny Kernaghan, marked the biggest success yet in the Dollybirds’ short history.
“It’s absolutely massive for a wee club like ours,” said the boss, who took over in 2016 after the club’s first two-year spell in the NIFL had ended in relegation.
“We’re in a very, very difficult league with big clubs. You have the likes of Bangor, Banbridge and Distillery in there and then there’s little Dollingstown from out the road in the country, who have won a major trophy. I’m absolutely delighted for everybody at the club.”
He points to chairman Hubert Watson, who is in the thick of the celebrations after the final whistle.
“He eats, lives and breathes Dollingstown,” laughs Uprichard. “The dedication he has is crazy. He’s a torture, he could ring me 20 times a week. I’m so delighted for him. We’re just a small club and Hubert leads a small committee. I wanted this for him and for the players.
“My backroom team, coaches Andy Hamilton and Gerard McMahon, physio Philip Derby and previously Barry Taylor, have been absolutely instrumental and also previous management teams and players have to take credit for bringing this club up from the Mid Ulster League to where we are now.
“This is the biggest cup at our level and to win it – I’m just so, so proud of everyone.”
Chairman Watson has put his own money into taking Dollingstown through the Mid-Ulster Football league and into the NIFL, most recently by funding a 300 seater stand and 3G training pitch at the club’s Planter’s Park ground.
It’s part of an ongoing project that Uprichard says isn’t realised with the biggest prize in intermediate football.
“We were ticking alongside nicely before the season stopped,” he mused, after his side ended the shortened Premier Intermediate campaign in third, five points behind Portstewart with a game in hand.
“Could we have got a play-off? I don’t know but the obvious is to progress the club up to the next level. Whether I’m the man to do that or not I don’t know but I still have the will-to-win and the desire to do it for these guys.
“It’s not easy for a wee club likes ours to compete with the big clubs we're in with but we’re there. We’ve got to settle down again and start building again.”
To that end, the squad is now packed with senior experience, Liggett joined by the likes of ex-Portadown midfielder David McCullough, former Loughgall attacker – Thursday’s man of the match – Kernaghan and ex-Newry City forward Keith Johnston, who set up both goals.
“Local lads,” says Uprichard. “They’ve got that experience but they’ve also got superb attitudes and they carry it out on the football pitch. You can see it that Richy Thompson, who is a Dollingstown legend, is now competing for a place where he was always a certain starter.”
And the key to further progress is that these guys want to remain at the club, which key man Kernaghan says isn’t even a question.
“This is the best squad I’ve ever played with and I don’t want to go anywhere else,” he smiles. “I think if this season had finished we had a decent chance of making the play-off but there’s nothing we can do about that. We’ll go again next year.”