Name: Holywood FC
League: NAFL 1C
Ground: Spafield Park
Colours: Green, Black and Red
Manager: Conor McGeown / Mark Crawford
Captain: Stephen Anderson
1989/ 90: Junior Cup
1989/ 90: Junior Cup
1999/00: 2A Champions
1999/00: Cochrane & Corry Cup
This week we return to the Amateur League and to 1C side Holywood FC. The North Down men have had a solid start to the season so far, and as Manager Conor McGeown explains, the club are looking to build on a strong end to last season.
“To be honest last season was a bit of a struggle at times. We had a good start, but a midseason lull was difficult as our small squad struggled with unavailability and injuries. Thankfully we finished the season strongly in 10th position which gave us optimism for the season ahead.”“We are much more optimistic for the season ahead. We have recruited well and now have strength and depth in positions that we didn’t have before. That has brought competition for places. In terms of quality, it is my personal opinion that its the most talented squad we have had at the club for ten years or so. But they are young so we have to temper the optimism we a dose of realism as well.”
Formed through the amalgamation of two well established NAFL sides, Holywood Town and Loughview Star in 1983, Holywood spent almost 20 years in the junior ranks of the Amateur League. They secured a famous Junior Cup success in the 1989/1990 season, seeing off local rivals Holywood Rec in the final. As the millennium came to a close, the club reaped the rewards of the continuous building process by securing promotion into Intermediate football. By the end of the season, they had secured a double, with Division 2A lifted along with the Cochrane & Corry Cup. As recently as 2012 the club were in Division 1A, and with an ambitious committee behind him, the gaffer is pleased with the promise already shown by his young charges this season.
“We are going to stay positive, take it one game at a time and see where that takes us. We were missing a few away to Rosemount Rec earlier in the season but arrived with such optimism. But despite a decent period of pressure in the second half, it was a naive showing defensively and we were punished for it, losing 5-0 in the end. But we will be competitive in every single game this year, there is no doubt about that. Last year or the year before teams were able to beat us easily without playing well. I am confident when I say that won’t happen this year.”
Saturday saw Holywood take on Premier Intermediate League side Newington in the last 16 of the Steel & Sons Cup. The ‘Ton were winners of the Blue Riband competition in 2017, so were a formidable opponent for McGeown’s men. Having seen off 1A side Malachians 4-1 in the previous round though, the Spafield men were in the mood for another upset.
“We lost in the last 16 of the Steel And Sons on Saturday, 3-0 at home to Newington YC. Despite the scoreline, we played extremely well. It was 0-0 after an hour and was proving to be an evenly matched contest. If anything in the first half we had the better half chances. But a slick move down our left gave Newington the lead and after that, it was always going to be difficult. But we kept going and their keeper made a tremendous save whilst we hit the crossbar with a freekick as well. Unfortunately, they picked us off on 80th minute to effectively end the contest and then scored with the last kick of the ball to skew the scoreline somewhat in my opinion.”
“For that reason, I was disappointed for the lads as they had worked so hard for the shirt. But we learn from it and move on. The disappointment in the changing room after was tangible so hopefully, the boys can use that to motivate them to push on in the league campaign and our remaining cup competitions. The average age of our team on Sat was under 22 so that really is a positive too, hopefully, our supporters can see that we are trying to rebuild this great club with a sound base for the future.”
Alongside their long-running senior teams, Holywood have a thriving youth setup within the club. This season they have also founded their first-ever ladies team, which will add another string to the bow of this progressive and ambitious outfit.
“We have a big Holywood FC Youth section with teams from u6 to u18 currently”. McGeown continued. “As with most intermediate clubs now it is a big operation which requires a lot of dedication and commitment. The next objective for the club is to foster that link between the u18s and senior sides which undoubtedly will help sustain our future. If anyone is interested in getting involved with HFC Youth, either as a coach or as parents of potential recruits, they should contact Ricky Round through the HFC Youth facebook page. Meanwhile, Tuesday 1st October saw the first-ever Holywood FC ladies training session. We watch developments with keen interest to see how things progress. If anyone is interested in getting involved with HFC ladies they should contact Rachel Woods through the HFC Facebook page.”
To highlight the belief McGeown has in his young charges, the manager struggled when asked which the clubs player to watch would be this season, but he did stress the importance of the hard work that goes on behind the scenes at clubs the length and breadth of the province.
“I have to say in previous years it would have to be our captain, Stephen Anderson, who I would pick out. This year, however, whilst this is the case I could really name the whole first-team squad. So, I will! Like any club of our stature, the work of the committee is vital. We also rely on the support of the local community, so I would like to give a special mention to our major sponsors without whom it would be very difficult to function: Holywood Construction, Fratelli Restaurant, Centra Holywood & Roy Finlay.”