If you haven’t caught up with the end of season one, I would highly recommend that you do as something major happened.
OTT FC have been promoted to the Premier Intermediate League against the odds after beating Donegal Celtic in the play-off final, after lifting the league title on goal difference. The board have also decided to make the club part-time, which means we can now start paying our players and keep them at the club for longer than they would have stayed without a contract.
There were a number of awards handed out based on last season’s performance. With 74% of the vote, Rory Patterson won the Fans’ Player of the Year, with Oisin Smyth being crowned Young Player of the Year. Matthew Taylor’s goal against Tandragee at the end of December won Goal of the Season, while Rory Patterson picked up his second award with Signing of the Year.
A quick recap of what else went on in the Northern Ireland Football League: Coleraine won the Premiership, with Warrenpoint being relegated. Ards won promotion from the Championship, with Institute defeating Newry City on away goals to retain their place in the Premiership and means City miss out on an immediate return to the top flight. Next season we will be facing Queen’s University and PSNI after they both got relegated from the Championship, with the PSNI losing out to Dollingstown who got promoted alongside the league winners Annagh United. Portstewart got relegated from the Premier Intermediate League, with OTT FC taking their sport in the league.
The players were given an extended break until July 6, before pre-season training began. Before they returned, I tried to tie down all the players that had significant game time last season to new deals, although these are still free contracts, based on appearance fees. We also were able to make a loan deal into a permanent transfer, with Oisin Smyth joining from Dungannon Swifts on a free transfer. It was the same for Matthew Taylor, arriving from Warrenpoint also on a free. Diarmuid Lavery and Jack Bradley also return for another year as their loan deals were extended.
The first new signing through the doors at the Ronnie Dog Arena was goalkeeper Cameron Crawford who joins on a free transfer from Newtowne. Right-back Kyle McCauley also joins the Writers on a free from Knockbreda, while midfielder Luke McKee joins from Ards.
A few players have left the squad, Timmy Browne has signed for Dergview, while Matt Lowe has joined Rathfriland Rangers.
Pre-season went like this:
Ballymoney United (H) 1-2 (BMU Goals: McColm 46’, Quigg 91’) (OTT Goals: Bradley 86’)
Rathcoole (A) 0-4 (Goals: Patterson 54’ Lavery 63’ Brown 72’ Bradley 78’)
Maiden City (H) 1-0 (Goal: Bradley 92’)
Irvinestown Wanderers (A) 0-6 (Goals: Brown 17’ 49’ Smyth 60’ Bradley 64’ Mackie 68’ Glenny 92’)
Aquinas (H) 10-0 (Goals: Patterson 1’ 7’ 8’ 46’ 75’ Lavery 47’ Brown 51’ Prentice 78’ 80’ Smith 88’)
Bertie Peacock Youth (A) 0-2 (Goals: McKenna 53’ Patterson 55’)
There was a large number of players leaving and coming into the side over pre-season, not all of which are first-team players, but these are the players that have left the club during pre-season.
These are the players that have joined Over The Turnstile FC during pre-season.
Rory Patterson reversed his decision to retire from football at the level we were playing at, by joining Over The Turnstile in the Premier Intermediate League at the age of 38.
Looking ahead to the league season, the media have given their predictions. They have predicted OTT FC to finish fourth, which would be remarkable if we can achieve that after only being promoted.
Jake Richardson and Rory Patterson also make it into the ‘Media Dream XI’, what they believe is the best possible team made up from players in the league.
So that brings to an end the first part of season two in this OTT FC adventure. The first competitive match of the season will be against Banbridge Rangers in the first round of the Bet McLean League Cup, with the Writers making their debut in the competition.