MOURNE Celtic’s inaugural campaign in the Fermanagh and Western League won’t live long in the memory. And with good reason.
Celtic, along with Enniskillen Rovers, took their bow last season and their final stats didn’t exactly make for good reading – played 16, lost 15, won 1.
That said for a team dipping it’s toes in the Fermanagh and Western waters for the very first time they deserve credit for sticking at it. Some more established teams may well have pulled the plug.
Celtic though are back for more but this time around manager Chris Cunningham believes his team is better equipped for the many challenges which lie ahead.
This year the North Tyrone outfit is fielding two teams, one in the third tier of the Fermanagh and Western and one in the Derry and District Saturday Morning League. They, too, have increased their portfolio of young players and hope to enter a team in the Fermanagh and Western U19 League when, and if, it takes place in the midst of winter.
Things are certainly looking up for the Celts who will again play out of Strabane’s Melvin Park and, with a full campaign behind them, Cunningham is looking forward to the new season.
“Last season was difficult and admittedly when things weren’t going well there were days when I had 10 players and had to play myself,” he said.
“But we will be a lot stronger this season, pre-season has gone well and the players are buzzing in training.
“I definitely feel we can challenge this season and the aim will be to push for promotion.”
That’s quite a confident spake given their struggles of last season but no doubt that ambition is backed up by the fact that Celtic have recruited an influx of young players as well as aquiring the services of brothers Tiernan and Tori McConnell, who both previously played with Glebe United, and centre-back Kyle Devine.
Cunningham has also retained the bulk of last year’s squad including the likes of Jordan Patterson, Warner Roche and Patsy Porter and that has added to the feel-good factor around the fledgling club.
“A number of players turned down offers to go elsewhere so that’s encouraging for a start,” added the Mourne boss.
“There are no easy games but I believe we now have a better understanding of the league. Having that year of experience under our belts will be a massive help.”
Celtic kick-off against Ardstraw Res at Vaughan’s Holm on Saturday.