Killyleagh YC finally win their place in the top flight.
Killyleagh YC have won their place back in the Amateur League’s top flight writes Chris Hagan.
After a four year gap, The Showgrounds club has won promotion back to the League’s Premier Section. Paul Sharvin’s team clinched it with a 4-2 victory over nearest rivals Orangefield in east Belfast recently.
It is Sharvin who has woken the sleeping giant that is Killyleagh YC. The squad have suffered since the record-breaking days under Dee Heron when they won six Premier Section titles in a row, along with the Steel and Sons Cup, Border Cup and Clarence Cup.
Finding someone to fill Heron’s boots has been a struggle for the club but less than two years after taking over, Sharvin has steered the Whites back to the promised land.
The final whistle on last Tuesday night sparked celebrations as Sharvin, his assistant Nicky Hagan and the players were mobbed by fans, with supporters bursting into an impromptu chorus of ‘
Walking down the Comber Road.'
Sharvin said: “It felt brilliant at the end. I was relieved, not that I felt we would lose the game, but relieved that we had finally clinched promotion at last.
“I am so proud of these boys and what they have achieved, and I cannot give enough credit to my coach Nicky Hagan. The players have worked hard since last June. It has been a long season but we are going up.”
B J McMenamin scored a super opener for Killyleagh but it was quickly cancelled out. Johnny Cheevers made it 2-1 from a corner and Orangefield again hit straight back with an equaliser from the penalty spot. But on the stroke of half time Killyleagh restored their lead. Jack Sharvin was sent tumbling in the penalty area. Although his spot kick was saved, Lee Morrison scored a stunner with his right foot from 20 yards to make it 3-2 on a night filled with tension.
Sharvin had changed his tactics for the game to adopt to the tight pitch and in the second half, Killyleagh invited Orangefield to break them down. It was not a game for the purists or the faint-hearted. Rather it was a night for big hearts and Killyleagh had them all over the pitch.
There was no way past the backline of captain Niall Walsh, Jon Joe Sharvin, man of the match Johnny Cheevers and Macaulay Foster, as they won every header with a virtually flawless collective display, protecting Aaron Carberry.
Darren McConnell and Jamie Sharvin were missing from the YC midfield but unsung hero Kieran Sullivan worked overtime to shield the defence, with Barry Treacy, Morrison and McMenamin putting in outstanding performances beside him.
Killyleagh always looked the more likely to score with the pace of the strike force of Adam Neale and Jack Sharvin causing problems. Between them, Neale and Sharvin have bagged a remarkable 58 goals this season but the pitch and frenetic nature of the game ensured their’s would be a supporting role. And when the clinching fourth goal arrived, it was Keegan Rice who linked with Neale to carve out a chance for McMenamin to slot home and make it 4-2 with three minutes remaining.
Larne Tech are expected to pip Killyleagh to the title but it will not take away from the scale of what Sharvin and his players have achieved. They suffered suffered only two defeats all season, and were unbeaten in the league away from home.
Their points total, even before Tuesday night’s game, would have been good enough to win the league title in all but one of the last eight seasons.
When he took over, Sharvin boasted that he would not be doing “mid-table” in 1A. In his first season his side claimed a number of big scalps from the Premier Section and Intermediate League with impressive cup runs.
He said: “I thought we needed those cup runs last season to get the crowds back to The Showgrounds. We needed that to get the buzz back. At the start of this season we said we would concentrate on the league. We did that and it has paid off, that’s not to say we deliberately lost the cup games.
“But this season we were not left with the huge backlog we had at the end of last season, playing Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for four weeks.
“We had a stronger squad this season. We added Johnny Cheevers, Foster Macaulay, Ryan Blaney, B J McMenamin and Barry Treacy and they are all quality players.”
Killyleagh were last promoted in 1980 and remained in the top flight for an unbroken 35 years, a modern Amateur League record. So it is hardly a surprise that already manager Sharvin is planning to consolidate the Whites’ position back among the aristocrats of amateur football.
“We will be looking to consolidate in the league and aim for a good cup run. But in the meantime we will enjoy this moment. The team has put a smile on the face of everyone in Killyleagh. We’ve been overwhelmed with the good wishes.” he added.