Name: Dunloy FC

League: Ballymena & Provincial League

Ground: McCamphill Park

Colours: Green & White

Management: Aidan Doherty & Jason Connolly

Captain: Jamie McFerran

This week’s Intermediate Profile moves to the Ballymena & Provincial League and to the early pace setters, Dunloy. The North Antrim side have enjoyed a blistering start, dropping just two points in their opening ten league games. We caught up with one half of the clubs management team, Jason Connolly, this week to get his thoughts on the progress the club has made since last season, and their plans for the future.

“I was involved with a different club last season”, Connolly commented,“ but always kept an eye out for Dunloy’s results as I’d been in contact with them about coming on board for this season. The early part of last season had a massive contrast between league and cup form. In the BPIL, the club lost their first four games without scoring a goal but hammered PIL side Moyola Park 5-1 in the Intermediate Cup and made the fourth round of the Irish Cup before narrowly losing to Larne Tech OB. An upturn in form in the league towards the season’s end – including a gritty 2-1 win away to reigning champions Glebe Rangers – saw the club finish in mid-table. I don’t think anyone would mind me saying that most around the club would’ve been disappointed with that.”

Since then, though, the club have set about a rebuilding process that included the addition of Connolly to the coaching staff, along with an influx of players to strengthen the squad. Jason arrived following a spell at Michelin in the Ballymena Saturday Morning League, where he led the club to promotion back to the top flight at the first attempt in his first season. Working alongside Aidan Doherty, the pair have been delighted at how well the new-look side have started the season.

“If I’m being honest, our blistering start to the league campaign (currently top with nine wins and a draw from ten matches) has surpassed even my own expectations. We’ve had some terrific performances like the 5-1 derby win over Ballymoney and an 8-0 over Chimney Corner but have also ground out some great results like a 2-1 win away to Brantwood. I had set a target of a top-three finish before a ball was even kicked but that has maybe changed, ever so slightly…..!”

Dunloy have dropped points just once so far this season, in a 3-3 draw at Hagan Park vs Coagh United. With a record of 30 goals scored and just 11 conceded in the ten games so far, the squad building process is proving to be a successful one to date. Connolly, though, was quick to highlight the long-serving players in the squad who have been there through thick and thin and the up and coming talent in reserve who are also making their mark at the top level of intermediate football.

“We have a hugely talented squad and summer signings Stephen McIlroy, Tiarnan Butler and the McNicholl brothers, Eamon & Neill, have taken to Intermediate level wonderfully after stepping up from junior football. Anthony Smith (younger brother of Carrick Rangers’ Michael Smith) is only 18 and been an absolute revelation at the back – he’ll become a top player if he keeps going the way he has been. But we have a core group of boys who have been here for a long time, the likes of Sean Doherty, Duane Scott, Jamie & JJ McFerran, Karl Fitzpatrick and Deccy McGarry who are incredible club men and top players.”

“I can’t miss out Caolan Gillan who is one of the best players in this league, in my opinion. He spent some time with Portstewart in the PIL last season but has returned to his hometown club and has already hit 8 goals playing in behind our front two. We have a strong panel in the reserve team as well, the management there are doing a great job and we’ve already had a couple of teenagers make their first-team bows, namely Fergal Dillon (who scored on his debut) and Ryan McFarline. The club is undoubtedly moving forward and have really improved things behind the scenes with a dedicated committee as well as on the pitch. We have ambitions of reaching Irish League status in the not too distant future and hopefully, we can achieve that.”