Strabane Athletic FC were the subject of a recent article on OTT following their historic first ever NI Intermediate League championship victory in April of this year.
At the time of writing, the club were awaiting further information on a tender process which had been started by the Derry & Strabane District Council regarding the upgrading of their home ground at the Melvin Sports Complex in the town. This week, however, Strabane AFC have revealed that the promised works will not now be completed in time to allow for their potential promotion to the PIL.
Early in 2019 the club had informed the NIFL of their intention to apply for promotion to the Premier Intermediate League, the highest level of Intermediate football in Northern Ireland, and the third tier of the pyramid in the NIFL system.
However, following talks between the three parties, it was revealed that the necessary works at the complex that would allow them to be promoted to the PIL would not be completed in time to meet the timeline set out by NIFL in the event of the club winning the title. The club say they were assured at the time that this process would have progressed enough to allow them to go through the same procedures for inspection in early 2020.
However, further dialogue has now revealed that will not be the case, leaving many disappointed within both Strabane AFC and Sion Swifts who have devoted a lot of time and effort into developing the complex for the wider sporting gain of the clubs and individuals in the area.
The committee of the club released a statement outlining their frustrations on Friday, and following an outpouring of support from all levels released an updated statement on Sunday. They revealed they would be seeking a further meeting with the council to highlight the concerns, while also attempting to put together both short term and long term plans for their own and Melvins future prospects, in conjunction with the support from individual councillors within the local government district.
On the pitch, the reigning NIIL champions progressed to the semi-finals of the prestigious North West Craig Memorial Cup on Saturday, following a penalty shoot-out victory over their divisional rivals Newbuildings United. Meanwhile, they have also successfully navigated the first round of the NI Intermediate Cup, thanks to a thumping 6-0 win over NAFL 1C side Iveagh United. They will meet PIL side Limavady United in the next round.
In domestic matters, Strabane have got off to the best possible start in the defence of their title, with full points taken from the two games they have played so far. They kicked off the league season with a huge 12-0 win over Trojans, the game a personal triumph for Warner Mullen who helped himself to five goals on the day. They followed this up with a 3-1 home win over Ardstraw thanks to a hat-trick from Jason McGrinder. This Saturday they travel to Magherafelt Sky Blues in a battle of the last two champions of the NI Intermediate League.