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Black and Yellow

[FM17] The Students who become the Masters

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Hello, I’m back.

Last year I took you on a journey with my Wakehurst side, and had a fairly successful (in the end) attempt at the Youth Challenge. I took Wakehurst from the bottom of the Northern Irish Football League to surviving as a Premier League outfit after a rather outrageous escape. You can see more of that here.

Anyway, I’ve taken some time elsewhere on FM, and have now decided it is time to attack Northern Ireland once again. In an ideal world, I would go again with Wakehurst, but unfortunately without me in real life they got relegated. Time waits for no man, so I have settled on a new team for this story.

It is will be a youth challenge again, as before. I will also keep you all updated on how the national side do in their matches.

Ladies and gentlemen, we're heading to

 

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Edited by Black and Yellow

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HALL OF FAME

This will be cool to see how our players progress over the years, and if any become absolute godsends.

Edited by Black and Yellow

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THE MANAGER

 

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26 year old Patrick O'Donnell from Ballymena takes charge at Queens University Belfast. To fit in with the youth challenge aspect, the side only has players who come through the university - from the youth system. Which I think is quite a cool, and slightly realistic, touch.

Anyway, here is Patrick;

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No major experiences as yet, having just come through the university himself.

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THE CLUB

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Expected to hit mid table for the first year, which shouldn't be too challenging. Fierce rivalries include two other university side, while we also have a rivalry with PSNI (an NI Police team). Definitely a history waiting to be written here, too.

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Now, I feel at a slight advantage here, because - due to being a university and universities having tonnes of cash, we have decent training facilities. Impressive, in fact. The youth aspect is the most important though, and that's as you'd expect for a low league Northern Irish side. The club own the ground too, which is nice. 

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Nothing to report here. Despite the good facilities, we have absolutely no money, so this is practically a blank canvas to start with. 

 

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THE SQUAD

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Quite a mixture of ability there. A couple of older experienced heads who may be useful off the field. Very short in the midfield and attack though, so that will need careful managing.

Here are a couple of our higher rated players;

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On first impressions, Kevin is a contender for the captaincy for the first year, although some of the mentals are weak (bravery, determination and concentration to name some!)

 

---

Off we go...

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589ce8da11028_NewHOYD.thumb.jpg.dc143162386e7641178d7f465aa40d08.jpg

The rather inexperienced Trevor Brownlee joins us as my first Head of Youth Development. Extremely cheap too.

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Ah, the reason he is so cheap is because he's very average. Still, first foot on the ladder and all that..

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It does indeed.

 

Cor, imagine what sort of mug would try and start a youth challenge with a team without any youth recruitment?! :lol::ackter:

 

(I will possibly be starting with a different club here..)

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3 hours ago, Black and Yellow said:

It does indeed.

 

Cor, imagine what sort of mug would try and start a youth challenge with a team without any youth recruitment?! :lol::ackter:

 

(I will possibly be starting with a different club here..)

Well that's a great start! :ackter::lol:

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You can ask for it to be increased and then you'll go up to minimal JC and limited YC - I did this with a team in NIR.

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I have just tried that but as I've only been there a week it isn't a surprise that they've said no. 

I've decided that we will continue avec this team, and hope to be in a position where I have some form of youth intake in the next year or so. 

I could be a Premiership side in two years time anyway so you never know :D

 

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Distillery are being backed to go straight out of this league. Unfortunately for them, it's the wrong way. Also a surprise to see Moyola Park so far out in the odds - but I learnt last time that these odds are about as accurate as my players passing!

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Ok so we managed to batten down the hatches and lose 5-1 in the end. Could have been worse. We also lost our captain for 2 months, and then during the week we also lost our other starting CM for 2 months. We only have two players really capable of playing in CM - and they're both crocked. This led me to go with a formation I've never done before for our home match with Donegal Celtic..

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A four centre back box formation. Who needs a midfield when we can kick it up to far end? 

We won 3-2. :D

 

 

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We have seemingly come through the mother of all injury crisis' - had 7 players out injured at one point, including first choice keeper, first choice CM's and both first choice strikers! Not good. 

As I did last year, I will be keeping a close eye on the national team too, seeing how they get on. They've recently kicked off their World Cup 2018 qualifying, with a defeat, obviously.

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Impressive for San Marino keeping the score down to just two goals. Would expect the Germans to comfortably win this group.

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Positive news. Should lock me in here for the next year as a minimum!

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Good result for the national team, coming home from the Czech Republic with a point and clean sheet.

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We followed it up with a routine win over San Marino, who lost 2-0 for the third straight match.

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Germany haven't been anywhere near as convincing as I anticipated, with a couple of narrow home wins. Still they're sitting pretty at the top and it'll take something special to stop them.

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Quite happy with our position after we've played each team once. 11 games left to play, and it's all to play for at the top. A top two finish would be an excellent start. 

At the bottom, it looks like Sport & Leisure are going to be up against it - however one win will make a big difference!

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The first time I have failed in keeping a player at the club, and it's frustrating. Daniel Hanna leaves us to move up a division to PSNI, who are in a promotion push themselves. He was one of the few players at my disposal who can play in centre midfield, so it is a blow that we've lost him. 

Finances have dictated that we cannot upgrade our youth recruitment or junior coaching just yet - I am desperately hoping that the board pump in some money soon so that we can get the ball rolling. 

Until that happens, I'll just have to go with what I have (which includes a group of 33+ year olds!) :D

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I'm not disappointed to lose Ryan Murphy. He hadn't played in the league for me at all. The only downside is that our fringe players are starting to kick off a bit, and we've no intake to replace them..

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Just 5 games remain, and we're well in the hunt for a promotion.

Our fixtures are;

Moyola Park (h)

Distillery (h)

Newington (a)

Dundela (a)

Limavady (h)

 

I feel that we'll need to win 4 of those 5 - Dundela away looks like the big one.

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So, we've got three games left now, and it's in our hands! 

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We went 4-0 up inside an hour against Moyola Park, before conceding 3 in 10 minutes to make it extremely nervy in the final stages. Fortunately we held on. That was followed up with a comfortable 2-0 win over Distillery, but that was made even better by seeing Donegal Celtic get smashed 6-0 at home to Newington! Couldn't have asked for a better result as we're now level on goal difference heading into the final three games.

Just hoping that Newington have used up all their goals in the last game! Two tough away matches for us now before ending with a home game against the bottom side. It's all to play for!

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We managed to get through with a 1-1 draw at Newington, while Donegal lost a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 at bottom side Limavady. This meant our lead remained at two points going into the penultimate fixtures. We travelled to Dundela while Donegal went to Tobermore United..

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Here is the situation at half time - as things stand we are 45 minutes away from the title. 

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2016/17 Season Review

Well, after my previous exploits in NI, I can't say I was expecting a promotion in my first year here. We have done it, however, and so will be plying our trade in the Championship next season. We'll start with the league campaign..

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It looks comfortable in the end, but that is mainly down to Donegal Celtic losing their final three matches. Their final match was a home game with Dundela - and Dundela scored two in the final five minutes to win 2-1 and leapfrog them into second place! We were at home to Limavady, who had us on the ropes for the whole match before they conceded a 92nd minute penalty - we scored to level it at 1-1. Fortunately for them, that late goal didn't drop them back into last place as Bangor won away at Tobermore, thus ensuring their safety. 

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The season itself started slowly, with one win in four. As the players got more used to our tactics (effectively a 4-3-3), and focused our training on defending, we started keeping regular clean sheets and grinding out wins. We weren't scoring many goals, but in the run in both our strikers hit a rich vein of form and we hit 14 goals in just 6 matches to seal the title.

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Something to try and extend next season too.

In the cups

As there was no real attention to our cups, you've probably assumed we didn't do anything. You'd be right.

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Just the one win, coming in the Irish Cup 4th Round. A trip to Premiership side Ards proved too difficult - even more so when they scored two inside the first 20 minutes. 

In the other cups, only really the Ballymena United Reserves game was worth mentioning - we pushed them to extra time at 1-1 but then completely blew it, conceding two in three minutes in the first half of injury time. It was soon 4-1 before a very late consolation. 

Awards

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Owain Beggs comes away with the player of the year trophy, just edging out strikers Connor Mulholland and James Lavery. Had Lavery not missed two months of the season, this may have been different. Beggs also came away with the Young Player of the season, and goal of the season, which came in our 5-1 hammering on the opening day. 

Mulholland and Lavery both finished on 12 goals each, sharing the club's golden boot. 

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We weren't expected to go up, but we've managed it. Looking at the position graph, it is safe to say that we peaked at the perfect time!

Early aims for 2017/18

* Finish outside of the bottom two.

* Generate enough money to develop some youth recruitment/junior coaching.

* Better performances in the cups.

 

Edited by Black and Yellow

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Around Europe - 2016/17

Here's what happened around the world during my 2016/17 campaign. I only have the British leagues loaded up so the other top leagues are not active.

Champions League

Paris St Germain won their first ever UCL title, after a remarkable run in the competition. They were extremely comfortable through to the quarter finals, where they scraped past Napoli on away goals. Into the last four, they met Real Madrid. The Paris side won 5-1 in the first leg at the Bernabeu, but very nearly undid that by losing 5-1 at the Parc Des Princes(!). They held their nerve to win a penalty shootout and progress to the final in Cardiff. Manchester City met them there, but PSG were comfortable 3-0 victors.

Europa League

Tottenham won through in the Europa League. Having been knocked out of the Champions League group stage, the London side had a relatively straight forward run in the knockout rounds, comfortably dispatching of BSC Young Boys, Shakhtar Donetsk, Lyon and Monaco. In the final, they faced Schalke, in Stockholm, and much like the Champions League, it ended 3-0. 

UEFA Super Cup

Real Madrid won this curtain raiser, edging out Sevilla by 2 goals to 1.

Now onto the domestic scene;

English Premier League

Arsenal were rampant in the Premier League, finishing 15 points clear of second placed Manchester United. Tottenham and Manchester City finished off the top four, while Liverpool and Leicester took the Europa League spots. Chelsea finished in 7th place. At the bottom, it was a sad end for Hull, Sunderland and Burnley, who will be playing Championship football next year. 

Scottish Premiership

Celtic also racked up a huge points difference, winning the SPL by 20 points ahead of Aberdeen. Rangers finished 3rd in their first season back in the big time. At the bottom, Motherwell were relegated on the final day of the season, and Kilmarnock survived the relegation playoff against Queen of the South. 

Dafabet Welsh Premier League

TNS romped to victory here, another side finishing 20 points clear of second spot. With just one defeat all season, it looks like they've continued their stranglehold on Welsh football. At the other end, it was a miserable season for Cardiff Metropolitan University, finishing with just 16 points. Cefn Druids join them in getting relegated from the top flight.

Danske Bank Premiership

Linfield smashed the Premiership, finishing a remarkable 28 points clear of second place Cliftonville. Cliftonville, Coleraine and Glenavon have all gone into the Europa League, so it'll be interesting to see if they can do anything to the coefficient while we are miles away from it. None of those sides have turned professional just yet, though if Linfield keep that dominance up, it won't be long. At the bottom, Dungannon finished dead bottom while Ards lost to PSNI in the relegation play off. 

 

 

 

 

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58a6c014c5942_HWJoboffer.thumb.jpg.56f93e7fd4959022c24d6169b980fe5c.jpg

One of our divisional rivals have offered me a job interview. While they don't have the impressive training facilities, it is proving a bit more challenging trying to do a youth only save when I don't get any youth...

Finances still dictate that we can't afford to get any form of youth recruitment - I've tried and failed in getting a parent club; I've organised high-profile friendlies which, despite selling over 1700 tickets per game so far, is making the club a loss. We're struggling financially - 3 or 4 player have retired too, meaning I am getting desperately close to signing some of the greyed out players from my U18s just to fill the gaps.

 

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This isn't very good either. Unlike on my journey last year with Wakehurst where the board would inject cash annually, this board do not appear capable of doing so. Despite having some of the highest attendances in the division last year, we still made a staggering loss. The main cause of this appeared to be staff wages - I have tried asking for a reduced contract but cannot do so just yet, while my backroom staff is extremely minimal right now. My assistant manager is a back up player, while I have a physio and..that's it. 

I was desperately hoping that the newly-formed Queens Cup would boost the finances, as we held a tournament featuring ourselves, Sheffield United, Nottingham Forest and Bradford City. It cost the club just shy of £90,000, and raised around £105,000 all in, so we've reduced our debt slightly.

I'm not expecting it but we really need an attendance increase this year. I have just 16 players available to me, of which 3 are retiring at the end of this coming season. I fear it's going to be an incredibly tough season this time around, and that is reflected in the pre-season odds.

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If I was offered 10th place right now, I'd bite your hand off for it. 

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58a6de3053006_Glentoran0-1Queens.thumb.jpg.a3368ab69f51633aeb70b69a49cb8b75.jpg

What a big result that is. Away at one of the countries most famous clubs and we've knocked them out! 

We've seemingly adjusted to life well so far this season, but I imagine we'll drop off when the fixtures start taking their toll on our small squad!

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Okay, we've gone through a bit of a rocky patch since the first handful of games. We set a new winless run of six matches, but have just ended it in style;

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Moving towards the half way point of the season now - the finances are worsening again which is unbelievably frustrating. Does anyone have any ideas of improving this situation?!

Edited by Black and Yellow

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We're certainly holding our own, with just two defeats in the first 11 games. It would be nice to get a top 6 finish to avoid all concerns of relegation as the league splits into two after the first 22 matches. I don't expect to challenge the top 3 but just having a relaxing end of season would be a great start to life in the Championship.

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Just four games left before the league splits in half and we could literally end up anywhere. Can't recall taking part in a league so close!

Our remaining four matches of the regular season see us travel to Ards, Larne and host Institute, before a final day trip to leaders Dungannon. Certainly 3 winnable games there - hopefully 9/10 points will be enough to confirm a top 6 finish ahead of the split. 

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I don't really know what I can do. Over pre-season we played host to plenty of EFL sides in the hope of making some money. In total it made us about £15,000 which was okay but I was hoping for more - the actual income over pre-season was around £100,000 but our expenditure was around £85,000(!). That lifted us back down to -£5,000 but over the season we've lost around £15k more and so our balance isn't looking positive. The board haven't injected a penny - they seem happy enough running at a narrow loss. 

I have a squad of 17 players now, of which 4 are retiring at the end of this season. That would leave me without a goalkeeper, and 3/4 defenders. It's a tricky situation - even promotion to the Premiership wouldn't be a huge difference, and even if we did sneak up through the Promotion playoff (I don't see us catching Dungannon at the top) then we would get absolutely hammered in the top flight.

I will persist for some time longer and see what happens. I don't really want to but I may have to sign up some of those grey players in the under 18s. Or if not then I may move to a different club and see if I get any luck there, although that is something I don't really want to do either!!

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Pre-split.thumb.jpg.e43c953c97b3dabb4fbc080a0d9bfd58.jpg

Six points proved just about enough for us to finish in the top 6 which is fantastic. While it's only a 6 point gap, I feel the top two are out of our reach. That third place spot is achievable, however. As you can see, our problem is that we're drawing too many games - four of our last five matches have ended level. 

Our final five fixtures see us host Armagh and Dungannon and travel to Knockbreda, Lurgan Celtic and end with a trip to H&W Welders. 

To be fair, I'm not too fussed how we do here - obviously a push towards promotion would be fantastic but as I've mentioned previously - with the threadbare squad at my disposal, I fear promotion would be too soon and we would get destroyed. Still, we'll aim for the top and see what happens, but it is incredibly refreshing not to be worrying about relegation! 

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I've knocked £125 a week off my own wages in an attempt to aid the club's finances. I just hope the reduced job security is worth it!

 

Edited by Black and Yellow

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Excellent run of form ahead of our final match, and what a huge match it is!!

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What a huge weekend. We must win at H&W, Knockbreda travel to Armagh while Dungannon host Lurgan Celtic. 

Cannot recall seeing a league so close with one game remaining! 

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58ad90ba72161_HW1-1Queens.jpg.7de7453b5440d76933e1f342de7549a0.jpg

And that is how it finished. We were pushing and pushing towards the end, and hit the post in the 91st minute. That chance not hitting the net resigned us to missing out on the title..but could we hang on to a playoff spot?

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Dungannon got hammered! Our draw is enough for us to reach the playoffs.

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Knockbreda couldn't find a breakthrough in Armagh, ending goalless.

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If our last minute effort had been slightly more accurate we'd be celebrating! That is devastating :(

We will go head to head with H&W again over two legs now, and due to goal difference, we will travel to them first. 

This is the final push.

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58ad98593ac17_HW3-3Queens.thumb.jpg.421a2d4d19cf3a4fa86fe1096fb8d38b.jpg

This was a mad game. We found ourselves 1-0 down to a belter inside 6 minutes. Just over half an hour later, we were 3-1 up and Owain Beggs was returning to Belfast with the match ball. At 3-1, you want to hold it tight - unfortunately we couldn't. Just 6 minutes into the second half, we conceded from a set piece. With 4 minutes left on the clock, we were pegged back to 3-3 with another 25 yard belter. Frustrating, but I'd have taken a draw and three away goals prior to kick off!

If we do the job at home, we will also set a new club record for unbeaten games, having put together an 11-match sequence to date. 

 

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Just. What a fantastic time for Matt McManus to pop up with his first goal of the season too! H&W will feel aggrieved to lose this game really; they had more on the ball and carved out more opportunities but just could not break us down. That's 12 unbeaten now, ahead of two games against Warrenpoint Town from the Premiership.

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Two more cup finals.

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A super second half comeback courtesy of two goals from top scorer James Lavery, and we have the advantage ahead of round two. Quite happy with over 500 fans in attendance too - this playoff run has seen the club make a small dent in our debt.

One more unbeaten game and we're in the Premiership!

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58ada1432042c_Warrenpoint2-2Queens.thumb.jpg.181cfcb60170fa91dfad8a0b44d16e50.jpg

Remarkable.

We were 1-0 down inside 8 minutes, and Warrenpoint were dominant, hitting the woodwork on two occasions in the first half. Straight from kickoff, they made it 2-0 (3-2 aggregate). A quick tactical change got us straight back into it. Matt McManus added his second of the season (loves a big goal, this lad!) with a near post header to tie the aggregate again. Four minutes later, our captain Owain Beggs levelled the score on the night, making it 3-4 on aggregate. Warrenpoint hit the post again in the final stages, but we just held on for a fantastic two-legged win, and.. we all know what that means?!

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I thought I had fluked it on my Wakehurst save, but I've done it again. Back to back promotions, and we're fighting with the big boys!

Absolutely unreal. We've used just 16 players this season, so we've been incredibly fortunate with injuries and suspensions. Of those 16, 4 are retiring, and two wish to leave the club. How I could really do with a youth system right now...

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2017/18 Season Review

 

So, another season done after winning the Premier Intermediate League in our first year. The Championship has a little step up, but generally the gap between the two divisions is not the greatest. Avoiding the bottom two was the target, but we really surpassed that!

Championship

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Two years, two promotions! It was incredibly tight, with the top four all having a chance of winning the league on the final day. Dungannon choked completely, while we played out a draw away at H&W Welders. Knockbreda, therefore, only needed to avoid a 2-goal defeat, and they did so, drawing 0-0 in their game at Armagh. That led us into the playoffs, where we'd meet H&W over two legs. A 3-3 draw at their place was followed by a narrow 1-0 win, and so we progressed on to face Warrenpoint in a two-legged affair. We were hosts for the first leg, and won 2-1, before a dramatic 2-2 draw in the second, ensuring we would be playing top flight football in 2018/19. 

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Draws, draws everywhere!

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As you can see though, we began putting a long sequence without defeat, which ultimately proved key in the run in.

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There's the two dramatic playoff matches. Both ties had seven goals, creating great entertainment for all of the supporters!

Cups

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That win at Glentoran was superb, and to be honest, so was the win over Ballyclare. Ballyclare had been relegated from the Championship last season, and were the holders of the Steel & Sons Cup, so to hammer them was very positive. Unfortunately it all went to pot so after. Glenavon were miles too strong, Knockbreda hosted a wonderfully thrilling encounter in the County Antrim quarter finals, and won through in the shootout. A week later, it was another shootout defeat, this time to Crumlin Star. 

In the Intermediate Cup, Newry were 3-0 up at half time, we battled back to 3-3 and went close to winning, before they scored in the first minute of extra time. Annoying. Finally, Dundela upset us in the Irish Cup, gaining some form of revenge for us beating them in last season's title race.

 

Finally...

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You have my attention.

 

Edited by Black and Yellow

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