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Donacloney looking to build on solid foundations

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Action from a recent Donacloney (wearing green) fixture

Action from a recent Donacloney (wearing green) fixture

© Gareth Irvine / Press Eye

Action from a recent Donacloney (wearing green) fixture

Donacloney's joint managers may have different personalities, but they have the same determination and shared vision when it comes to making a modern success of their historic club.

Formed in 1890, the ‘Cloney are not only one of the oldest clubs in Mid Ulster football, but in the whole of Northern Ireland, and in such difficult times when it appears a handful of local clubs fold annually, it is a testimony to the hard work and commitment present that they are still standing after all this time.

However, the club’s management partnership of Brian Gregson and Gary Knox, who both have respective long-standing associations with the club as players and in their current role, are eager to do more than simply survive.

Donacloney famously lifted their first silverware, the Mid Ulster Cup, in their first ever year, and the fourth year the competition itself was held. In more recent times, though, the silverware has been at something of a premium, with their Beckett Cup success of 2003 the most recent occasion when they have had a trophy to show for their endeavours.

And both managers have voiced their concerns about attracting players in the current climate as a result of the trophy drought.

Knox stated: “There’s not as much loyalty in football these days. It’s a tough one, because once you start doing well, you always have the big possibility that the players will move on up the leagues.

“The mentality in football has changed, and we are fighting a losing battle.”

Brian Gregson elaborated further on the difficulties facing Donacloney and many of their contemporaries in a similar position.

He said: “People don’t want to go onto Facebook or go out on a Saturday night and tell their mates that they play for a club in Division 3.

“The truth is that a good few clubs in our league are better than teams in Division 1.  Sandy Hill were lucky to beat us last Saturday, yet they beat Hill Street in the Mid Ulster Cup this season. It just goes to show that the gap isn’t as big as some people think it is.”

On paper, however, the club aren’t exactly fighting for league honours, but sitting four points ahead of a bottom two place, with several games in hand over their rivals, they look to be in a safe enough position to avoid any relegation this season.

Yet beyond that, Knox isn’t so sure. He continued: “We usually end up around mid-table because the teams that come up from Division 4 always seem to be so strong – they usually go up again.

“We are in a difficult catchment area, between Lurgan and Banbridge, where there is Championship football on offer for the better players, and as I say, there is a stigma about joining a Division 3 club.

“We would be very happy to welcome new players to the club, and they would know they are joining a club with a lot of history and tradition.”

Any potential new arrivals will also know what to expect from the men in charge.

“I’m the bad cop and Gary’s the good cop,” admitted Gregson. “I would lose the rag now and again, but he’s a bit more easy-going than me.”

With a knowing smile, his co-manager clearly agrees.

“That’s fair,” added Knox. “But I guess that’s because I still play with them half the time.” 

Better the devil you know…

Belfast Telegraph


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