NEFL | Division Three Preview |
Bay and Glenmuir eyeing promotion while Quay Athletic are an unknown quantity
The North East Football League season kicks off this weekend with nine local teams competing across four divisions.
Bay FC, Quay Athletic and Glenmuir United are the local representatives in Division Three and we look at their prospects for the campaign ahead.
Manager: Damien Bellew
Last year: 4th Division Three
One of three local teams competing in Division Three this season, Bay FC manager Damien Bellew has been busy in the transfer window over the summer, bringing in a host of new faces.
Father and son, Jadran and Dino Stimac, and Nikola Jurkovic have increased the club’s Croatian contingent to five while explosive striker Quadri Ola Leke has come in from Rangers.
Bellew has also added plenty of experience with Derek McCabe — formerly of Woodview and Bellurgan — and former Quay Celtic stalwarts, Johnny Winters and Gavin Toner, also on board.
One of the most interesting acquisitions by any club in the area is the capture of former Nottingham Forest and Irish underage midfielder Ryan Markey, who has the potential to be a hugely influential player for Bay.
One new player who has already made a big impact for the Rock Road outfit is Ryan Dillon.
The former Ardee Celtic striker marked his debut with a goal against Quay Athletic in the O’Neill Shield before hitting a hat-trick against Chord Celtic last weekend, a game that saw Bay come from 3–1 down to win 5–4.
After a bright start, inconsistency hit Bay’s promotion hopes in the second half of last season and they eventually finished nine points behind champions Virginia.
In response, Bellew has assembled a more committed squad that is more than capable of winning the title and going on a run in the Leinster Junior Shield and they will be looking to open with a win in Ballyjamesduff on Sunday.
Manager: Gerry Cooney
Last year: Did not enter
One of the surprises of the summer was the news that a second team from Clancy Park, Quay Athletic, had entered the North East Football League and were placed in Division Three.
Managed by Gerry Cooney, who will be assisted by Barney Connolly, the team was set up with the intention of trying to attract young lads back to football.
Cooney has identified lads in the 18–23 age bracket, with former Dundalk FC underage and Schoolboys League representative players in his panel.
“We are trying to get a lot of young lads who came up through the ranks in the last 10 years and are not playing to get back into football,” said Cooney.
Athletic’s start in the NEFL has been a tough one thus far, losing to Bay and Thatch in the O’Neill Shield and they face a tough assignment on day one when they travel to Donacarney on Sunday afternoon.
Manager: Kevin McArdle
Last year: 3rd Division Four
Regraded to Division Three after finishing third in Division Four last year, Glenmuir are hoping to battle for promotion again this time out.
The Blues will have no fear of life in the fourth tier. They were the only team to beat Division Four champions Skryne Tara last season and also beat promoted Park Villa.
Newry City defender Kevin McArdle is back at the managerial helm, assisted by Pat Crilly, while Stephen Hutchinson, who started his UEFA B badge this week, will provide the coaching.
In terms of his squad, McArdle has been boosted by the addition of some of the club’s Dundalk Schoolboys League U17 Cup winning members from last year with Tolani Animasahun , Peter McStravick and Luke Murray all set to be involved while Eamonn Kenny and David McComish will add quality when the GAA season comes to an end for Dundalk Gaels.
The late addition of a reserve team, who will be managed by Keith Newell, is also a welcome move for the Glenmuir boss and will provide an outlet for some of his fringe players to keep ticking over.
A pleasing 3–3 draw with Moneymore in their O’Neill Shield opener was followed by a 3–0 loss to an impressive Doneycarney side and McArdle admits it may take some time to find his best team.
Kells Celtic, who finished fifth in Division Three last year, present their first test when they meet at Glenmuir Park on Friday night.
NEFL Division Three 2017/2018
Bay FC, BJD Celtic, Donacarney Celtic, Glenmuir United, Kells Celtic, Lourdes Celtic, Newtown United, Park Celtic Summerhill, Quay Athletic
Rathmullan Celtic, Skryne/Tara.