Belfast Telegraph

Crewe United boss McKenna will be 'glad to see the back' of all-conquering Dollingstown

By Martin Mawhinney

If or when Dollingstown end their long crusade to gain promotion to Belfast Telegraph Championship Two, there will be few cheering louder than Crewe United’s Thomas McKenna.

The Crewe Park manager admits he’ll be “glad to see the back” of Mid Ulster’s most dominant club of recent times, in order to give his own side the optimum opportunity to follow in their wake.

With last year’s league champions already amassing maximum points from their first four Intermediate A fixtures, and firing on all cylinders in the cups, McKenna feels anyone would have their work cut out trying to stop them fulfilling their dream once and for all this year.

He remarked: “Dollingstown are by far and away the best team in this league. They have 22 or 23 top quality players, and a lot of them have Irish League experience. It’s going to be very difficult for anyone to cope with that quality.”

If anyone should know, it’s McKenna and his men. They faced Dollingstown in the Irish Cup first round last Saturday, and ended on the wrong side of a 5-2 scoreline. There were, however, positive signs to be taken from a Crewe perspective.

McKenna reflected: “We were 2-1 up against them at half time in that game, but a few bad refereeing decisions let them back in. We have shown that we aren’t far away.

“We drew with Camlough Rovers the week before last, and Tandragee Rovers haven’t had a great start, so there is a chance for us to do well this season. We have been steadily improving, but my goal for the club is to get a trophy in the next year or two.”

That dream may be a distant one with a certain club still in the Mid Ulster picture, and McKenna isn’t too proud to admit he wants them out of the way as soon as possible.

“To be honest, I was disappointed when Newington beat them in the Championship play-off last season,” he admitted. “I’ll be glad to see the back of them – but not just for selfish reasons. They are a well-run club and deserve a chance to play at that level.

“But we have made a conscious decision to move up to that level too, and there is no doubt that task would be made easier if they weren’t in this league.”

Crewe differ from Dollingstown in that they have already had their fair share of experience in the Irish League, but dropped out of the former Division Two in 2004 after consistently underperforming each year.

Finding a more realistic level in the Mid Ulster League, Crewe have been building up the momentum to stage an impressive return to top flight football again, and under McKenna alone in his three years in charge, they  have progressed from finishing seventh to sixth and fourth.

Under that sequence, Crewe could rightfully be aiming for a place in this year’s top three. It hasn’t been the most convincing opening to the campaign for them, with just four points in as many league encounters, but few signs of consistency around them, there is no sign of early-season panic.

Add to that the impending return of captain Scott Bingham from a medial ligament strain and French wing wizard Loic Bouchard from a knee injury, and there really are causes for Glenavy-based outfit to be optimistic.

The facilities are there. The players are there. Now all they need is the results.

McKenna concluded: “When we were back in the Old B Division, we had to accept we just weren’t good enough.

“But the good thing about these last few years is that the improvement has been gradual, and it means that, while we would be sad to leave Mid Ulster if we do, we’ll be in a better place to stay in the Championship.”

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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