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SportCastlewellan Town on a roll

Castlewellan Town on a roll

SOCCER – Castlewellan captain Conall Corrigan explains how an unsettled team has somehow managed to stay in four cup competitions. Read the club focus now.

CASTLEWELLAN Town have been in scintillating form this season.

Following promotion from the 2B division of the Amateur League last year, the Bann Road men are into the quarter finals of both the County Antrim Junior Shield and the IFA Junior Cup.

With a raft of league games still to be played, back-to-back promotions isn’t out of the question either.

I spoke to club captain Conall Corrigan for this week’s edition of club focus, as he discussed Castlewellan’s ambitions for the remainder of the season. 

It’s been a peculiar campaign for Corrigan and his teammates, in that, it’s now January and Castlewellan have only played four league games out of a possible 12 due to the number of cup competitions they’re involved in.

Still in contention in the Junior Cup, the Junior Shield, the Clarence Cup and the Cochrane Corry Cup, it could turn out to be an historic season for the Town, but the number of cup games they’re playing brings its own problems, as the captain explained.

Star man Ruairi Croskery isn’t allowed to take part in the Junior competitions as he’s played more than ten NIFL Premiership games in the past three years and other key players are banned from those same competitions as they appeared for Newcastle in the early rounds of the Irish Cup.

“We have a massive squad of 20 players looking to play first team football. A few of them are cup-tied in certain competitions, so every week we’re having to change the team and it’s hard for John and the rest of the coaches to get a settled team.

“I’m sure he (John) would love a settled team but it’s a good problem to have, although it would be nice to get a few more league games under our belt as well,” Corrigan said.

With the league schedule slowly but surely ramping up, it could prove to be a difficult balancing act for manager John Young and his backroom team, but Corrigan believes the squad will embrace the challenge of fighting on multiple fronts.

“Providing we continue to do well in the cups we could be looking at Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday games whenever the dark evenings come to an end.

“Looking at it from the outside-in, it probably looks like a bit of a problem because 2A is such a competitive league, you’re not going to get an easy game. You could end up playing three really tough games in the space of four or five days.

“But with the squad we have and with boys chomping at the bit to get minutes, I’m 100 per cent confident we’re going to embrace the challenge that lies ahead of us providing we stay in the cup competitions.”

Eleven points off 2A league leaders Queens Grads, but with eight games in hand, Corrigan is confident that the men in green can push themselves into promotion contention, buoyed by victories over some difficult opponents in the cup competitions.

“I have every bit of confidence in the boys. We’ve played teams in leagues above us (in cup competitions) and beat them, but at the same time we know it will be difficult as we will have to play so many games in a certain amount of days.

“It’s going to be physically and mentally tough knowing we have to win pretty much every game to reach promotion but knowing the boys, the way they train and the way they celebrate after every goal, it’ll mean so much to them to get promoted and hopefully that’ll drive us on towards our goal.”

When pressed on some of the reasons for Castlewellan’s impressive campaign, Corrigan pointed to two things; the performances of goalkeeper Rory Burns and the way in which other forward players, like Rhys Clarke and Karol Jarosinski, have adapted to the play of the team’s talisman, Ruari Croskery, who scored an astonishing 33 goals in just 13 NAFL Division 2B matches for Castlewellan last season and has 30 goals this term already.

“Rory Burns in nets, in my eyes, is the best keeper in local football and probably could play at a higher level if it wasn’t for other commitments.

“Last year Ruairi’s stats spoke their own story but this year a lot of the boys are starting to get used to his game.

“Last year he was usually two passes ahead of everybody else but now everyone’s getting to know his game play better, which allows them to play on the same wavelength.”

The Town continued their magnificent run of form on Saturday with a 5-3 win over Shankhill United in the Clarence Cup, meaning their winning streak now stretches all the way back to August, when they lost their only game of the season so far in the league opener against Kelvin Old Boys.

Rhys Clarke, Ruairi Croskery (2), Ruairi McArdle and Ciarnan Stratton were all on the scoresheet as Castlewellan survived a late Shankhill fightback to progress to the third round.

Although Saturday’s win means no less than four trophies are still up for grabs, Corrigan, who has spent his entire career with Castlewellan, barring one season at Drumaness Mills, is clear on where priorities lie; promotion from 2A.

“At the start of the season we said intermediate football was the number one target and nothing has changed in that regard.

“We always said we wanted to win a cup or two as well, so we’re keeping our eyes on all trophies and we’ll give anyone a game in any of the competitions we’re in, but having intermediate football next year would be massive for the club.”

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