It was between Christmas and New Year the players and management of Gweedore United huddled in the chilly dressing-rooms at Carrickboyle and promised one another they would do all in their powers to stop the club’s slide.From being a team who had rubbed shoulders with their neighbours Gweedore Celtic in the Brian McCormick Sports Premier Division just two years beforehand, United had slipped to successive relegations.
“People say winning is a habit but losing is a habit too,” says Gweedore United player-manager manager Brian O’Gallchóir when he looks back now. “Although we’ve good experience in the squad some of the young lads had only really seen us lose so we had to stop that.”
By New Year Gweedore United weren’t badly placed, third overcall, but had already lost on three occasions in the CT Ball Division Two. Perversely, though, those reversals actually gave the squad more belief when they got talking on their prospects.
“The likes of myself as player-manager, Kevin and Stephen Cassidy all spoke,” O’Gallchóir continues. “We’d lost three times but we said one of them was against Bonagee United, on what was one of those days. We lost 2-1 and should’ve won 10-2. We were also unlucky to go down 1-0 against Kerrykeel.
““To be honest, we could easily have picked up a point or two from those matches then we would’ve been considered to have been in a much better position.
“But, as it was, we weren’t far away. The only loss we really took on the chin was the match against Dunlewey United, who beat us 4-1 and had they scored 10 that day we wouldn’t have complained.”
Carrickboyle’s improvement off the pitch brought with it an improvement on it. The Derrybeg venue is a hub of activity most evenings of the week with the club’s Astroturf facility and floodlights.
And after Gweedore United defeated Glenree United 3-1 on Sunday to clinch the league title, it meant they had won nine and drawn one from 10 fixtures at the venue this season.
A home win against Glenree meant the permutations of the other two chasers, Kerrykeel and Bonagee United, who were concurrently in action of Rab’s Park, were deemed irrelevant in terms of silverware.
All week O’Gallchóir had told his players to concentrate on their own match and not to worry about the uncontrollables.
Some local knowledge and an insistence on the need to make a good start meant that Gweedore United started Sunday’s final league match of the season with the winds at their back.
Visiting goalkeeper Cathal McBride was involved frequently but on 19 minutes the home side hit the front when Michael Connolly tucked home a pass from Ciaran McFadden.
Then, three minutes later, Connolly was on target again before Shane O’Donnell made it three in the second half. Damien Nelis scored a last minute consolation but it didn’t stop the party.
“Thank God we got our own result and didn’t have to be worrying about anyone else’s,” O’Gallchóir adds. “We were delighted to be 2-0 up but had to be careful playing against the elements. We went from 4-4-2 to 4-5-1 with Michael Connolly dropping back and Ciaran McFadden up top on his own.
“Our defence has been decent all year, we only conceded 19 goals in total but we were playing into the elements. We knew that Bonagee United were 1-0 up in their other match at half-time but that was nothing to do with us (the match would finished 1-1).
“We held on and are delighted to have won the league and got promotion. It’s important as there’s a lot of children involved with the club here and we want to have a decent Sunday team so they can aspire to be on it.
“I was 16 or 17 myself when we won a league in 1992/93 and I still remember it fondly. The most important thing we can do is to keep the club moving both on and off the pitch and after a year or two in the doldrums, winning the league can only help that.”
CT Ball Division Two
P W L D F A GD Pts
Gweedore United 18 14 3 1 61 19 42 43
Kerrykeel 18 13 4 1 53 22 31 40
Bonagee United 18 12 4 2 44 32 12 38
Whitestrand United 18 11 7 0 44 26 18 33
Dunlewey Celtic 18 9 5 4 41 31 10 31
Glenree United 18 8 6 4 35 31 4 28
Letterbarrow Celtic 18 6 11 1 23 51 -28 19
Convoy Arsenal 18 3 13 2 29 50 -21 11
Drumbar 18 1 12 5 22 53 -31 8
Copany Rovers 18 1 13 4 25 62 -37 7