Ballyclare Comrades brought down the curtain on a topsy-turvy Championship 1 season by avoiding relegation, but plans are afoot to move up the table.
Manager David Dorrian, who took over in March following the surprise resignation of Eddie Hill, has indicated that there should be an influx of new players during the summer break, while most of the current staff are likely to re-sign.
“I have already recruited Stuart King from Larne, who will double up as assistant manager and player, but I have several other irons in the fire, and if all goes to plan, the fans should see a new-look team in August,” he stated.
The highlight of the season was knocking Linfield out of the League Cup in August.
Since the formation of the club, the Blues have been Comrades’ bogy team, and according to the records at my disposal, this is only the second time in the club’s ninety-six years’ history that the Reds have managed to overcome the Windsor Park side.
The other was in 1995 when strikes by Peter Moran and Pat O’Connor resulted in the historic 2-1 win at Dixon Park.
Reflecting on the season, chairman Trevor McCann said: “A heavy defeat at Inver Park in the opening match, followed by being knocked out of the Steel & Sons Cup in the first round was not the start we wanted, but this was off-set by the cup win against Linfield.
“Then we had a fine spell mid-season when we had a good run in the Irish and Intermediate Cups, but after a dip in form we flirted with relegation in the run-in before finishing in mid table.
“So we experienced excitement and frustration in a season that will be largely forgotten,” he concluded.
Injury to main striker Chris Trussell was a major factor in the club’s fluctuating fortunes.
During the previous two seasons, his goal-a game sequence made him a fans’ favourite, but this time he scored only eight, due mainly to a long absence because of injury.
In his absence, Randal Reid lifted the Top Scorers Trophy with 12, followed by Trussell, Andrew Simpson and Joel Cooper with 8 apiece.
Nobody managed to play in all 37 fixtures, but Kyle Buckley came tops with 36, followed by Samuel McIlveen 35 and Paddy Flood 33.
Once again Ballyclare Comrades have more players in the Regions Cup panel than any other club, so Flood, Trussell, Cooper, Buckley and Andrew Doyle will be hoping that they make manager Harry McConkey’s final selection for the upcoming tournament that is being staged in Dublin next month.