As we reach the Ides of March, Ardoyne Working Men's Club have become wary of cup competitions.
The Belfast side reached the last eight of both the Junior Cup and the Junior Shield, while they're still in the Cochrane & Corry Cup. With only seven league games played, they're now left with a massive backlog of fixtures, as they push for promotion in Division 2B.
Manager Brendan Mailey said: “You could say that you suffer for doing well in the cup competitions and it's maybe something we will need to think about for next season. We might not enter all the cups next year.
“We reached the quarter-finals of both the Junior Cup and the Junior Shield, and we're still in the Cochrane & Corry Cup. It means we will be playing Saturday-Tuesday-Thursday for the last few weeks of the season, which is obviously very difficult for any amateur team.
“Thankfully, the guys all seem to be up for the challenge. We've a squad of about 22 players to pick from and a reserve manager who does everything he can to help the first team. Everybody at the club is pulling in the one direction this season, which is great.”
With so many games in hand, Ardoyne are well placed to challenge for the 2B title this season. The Belfast club certainly didn't let a recent 3-0 defeat to Harryville Homers in the quarter-finals of the Junior Cup spoil their season.
Mailey said: “We had two aims at the start of the season. One was to challenge for promotion and the other was to go far in the Cochrane & Corry Cup. I think we're on our way to achieving that.
“We've an awful lot of league games left to play, so it's hard to know how it will pan out but I'm confident we can finish well. We want to play our football in 2A next season, so we will be pushing hard for it.
“The run in the Junior Cup was nice but I wasn't too concerned when we were knocked out of it. It wasn't one of our objectives at the start of the season and I just see our run in it as a nice bonus. In truth, it's probably hindered our league campaign.”
On March 30, Ardoyne travel across the city to play Tullycarnet at Crusaders' Seaview ground, as Mailey's side seek revenge for their recent 3-2 quarter-final Junior Shield defeat.
“Tullycarnet knocked us out of the Shield in extra time, but there wasn't much between the two sides. We know them pretty well, so everyone is looking forward to having another crack at them.
“Everyone is really looking forward to playing at Seaview. It's always nice to play on an Irish League ground and hopefully there will be a good wee crowd there to cheers us on.”
Over the years, the Mailey family have been synonymous with Ardoyne WMC. Looking back on the last ten years, former captain and current manager Brendan believes the club made the correct decision, when they quit the Belfast & District League for the Amateur League five years ago.
“Amateur League football has been fantastic for Ardoyne. We had probably gone as far as we could in the Belfast & District League, and we had probably gone as far as we could with that particular team. We knew we had to rebuild the team to an extent, and it's been fantastic to do that in the Amateur League. It's been our aim for many years, so it's great to see this club finally achieve that.”
Club: Ardoyne Working Men's Club
Division: NAFL 2B
Ground: Mallusk Playing Fields
Manager: Brendan Mailey