Following Dreams

  1. Following Dreams

    Prologue

    Every kid who plays football dreams about playing on the biggest level. Playing in the Champions League, in the national team and win titles. My dream was a little bit different. I wasn't talented at all, i tried over and over again, i worked hard, but it wasn't enough in my case. On the other hand i always played with manager games, and i really wanted to try myself in real life as well, but that was just a plan for a while. I went to university, i wanted to finish my studies and i got further and further from football, then something happened...

    Hungary qualified for EURO 2016 and it made me think. It made me want to feel the same: Play on the biggest level! Obviously its too late to have a successful career as a player, but i still can a be a manager.
    I finished my last semester so i have my degree now, but that means nothing. I have no qualificatons i have no playing experience. Who would want a manager like that?
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    My situation is worse than i thought. I needed a personal assistant who has some experience in this world. It was 3rd of June when she found me some possible jobs. I sent my application, and a few hours later i had four interviews on skype.
    The first team was Bukovyna Chernivtsi from the Ukranian 2nd division and the interview went really well. The three other teams were Hapoel Nazareth-Ilit from the Israeli 2nd division, FC Oshmyany from the Belarusian 2nd division and CS Balotesti from the Romanian 2nd division. The days passed with no news, but on 7th of June i got an email that Leonid Gaydarzhy got the job in Bukovyna. More bad news on 9th of June: Hapoel Nazareth-Ilit and FC Ohsmyany choose someone else as well. My only chance was CS Balotesti from Romania at this point, but on the next the day Loughgall from the Northern Irish 2nd division offered me an interview.
    On 13rd of June i got the news that i didn't get the job at Balotesti either, so everything looked really bad, and i was so desperate and almost gave up. On the next day i woke up late and didn't check my emails for a while, but when i saw the contract offer from Loughgall i didn't believe it. My journey started.
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  2. Following Dreams-loughgall.jpeg


    2016/17 Preseason

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    Loughgall FC is a semi-professional club in the Northern Irish 2nd divison. When I arrived the chairman wanted to talk with me immediately. He said his expectations about every single competition, handed me the financial summary of the club. He just talked, and talked and talked and i tried to follow him. On the end he called Stephen the assistant manager into the office as well, then he left. Stephen told me about the club, showed the facilities, we spoke a lot about the players, shared his ideas about the team. It was too much information for a 2 hour meeting, so I thanked everything and went back to my office to analyse player reports.
    I realised that everyone is non-contracted here, we have no transfer budget, and the wage budget is just enough to pay the staff, so if anyone gets a slightly better offer i have to look for a replacement immediately.
    The depth and the quality of the squad looked good, but i needed a Right back and a Central Attacking Midfielder. I added Ryan Mullan, and Maciej Dabrowski to the squad so we seemed ready, but the start of the season was still a month away.
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    Unfortunately both of our Centre backs got offers from other teams and they couldn't turn it down, so i needed replacements. We analysed so many player reports with Danny the scout. Discussed the pros and cons about every player, but i had to say the final word, so our new starting pair of Centre Backs are Aaron O'Hagan and James Storey. A few days later i got an email that our Left Winger leaves the club as well. More work for Danny and I. Another list, more long nights. I selected the young Thomas Robinson who looks really decent on this level.
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    About the preseason: We had four games against lower side teams, i think i found the best tactic, the best 11. The guys look hungry, they seem ready. We have to finish in the top half and i think its a realistic and achievable goal.
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    Its 6th of August, the first matchday and we're ready.

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    2016 August-September

    This is it, this is the first match of the season, the first match of my managerial career. I'm really nervous, i want a good start, if we really want to finish in the top half of the table. 22 match is ahead of us, my contract is only one year long so that 22 match will determine my future, its hard not to be nervous.



    Week 1: Knockbreda (Home)

    Rainy afternoon in Loughgall. We started the game better, we had nice chances, but we couldnt test their keeper. In the 30th minute Knockbreda had two chances back to back after a counter. Before half time Knockbreda tested Buchanan once again, but he was able to save. In the second half we came out in a more attacking mentality, we kept them on their half, but every chance was wide or high, so the game ended with a draw.
    We were the better side, but as a start i accept that draw.


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    League Cup 1st Round: Banbridge (Home)

    Lower side Banbridge visited Loughgall. 3 days after the first game of the season i was a little bit afraid about the guys. Our schedule is busy in the first month, i can hope that the guys can stay on their feet and the results will come as well. It was clear that the guys are really tired, Banbridge created chances over and over again. After a counter Boyle headed into the net after a nice cross and we were up by one. 5 minutes after the restart the situation was a little bit chaotic inside our box. Conor Downey was the first one to react and equalised the game. In the last 40 minutes they just pushed and pushed to find another goal, built some counter attacks but the result didnt change. The extra time was really boring, both team wanted the end, and survive until the penalties. Both team shoot goal after goal until the 17th round. Ross Black made it, so McGrath has to make it to keep his team in the game, but Buchanan felt the right direction and saved it. We're in the next round after a long game and i have my first win as Loughgall manager.


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    Week 2: P.S.N.I. (Away)

    Third game in a week, but the guys seemed fit surprisingly. I made some changes in the starting 11 after the last game because we played really poorly so i had the shake things up a little bit. After 6 minutes the 19 years old Stefan McMaster scored after a clean shot and gave us the lead. After that it was a really even match without any goals so the youngster decided the match on his debut and bagged us the 3 points.


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    Week 3: Institute (Home)

    Finally some rest for the guys, we had a week to prepare for the next game and we really needed it. McMaster got his chance after the last game he looks really promising.
    We played good and we wanted to continue our good form. Institute thought it differently. They had the lead after 16 minutes of play, and i have to say they deserved it. We tried to break their defence but they stopped us on the midfield most of the times and in the 75th minute they doubled the lead. We kept pushing, and our efforts lead to a goal in the 80th minute. Institute realised that the game isn't over yet so they tighten their defense again, so we had no chance to save a point.


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    League Cup 2nd Round: Bangor (Away)

    Lower side team once again, but this time it would be better to decide in regular time. The game was really even this time again, at least we wasnt the worse team with 3 days break. The fans had to wait 66 minutes for the first goal, and Ross Craig made the home fans really happy. 5 minutes later we equalised but we needed an own goal for it. Nothing happened in the last 20 minutes so we had to play extra time again. 100th minute and the referee points to the spot after a tripping inside Bangor's box. Henderson steps up and shoots it to top corner, the keeper had no chance. Seven minutes later after a nice cross Dabrowski finished from close range and extended our lead. Bangor fans got some hope in the 114th minute when their team scored after a close header, but that was all, we stepped to the next round.


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    Week 4: Annagh United (Home)

    One of the worse teams is always great to play against, but always tricky, we can't fail this one, we need this win. As favourites we kept them on their half from the first minute and wanted to break them. After 21 minutes of play Marcus Dallas gave us the lead after a close finish. wesley Boyle had the chance to double it after a penalty but the keeper saved it, but after the corner Henderson shot the ball to the bottom left corner from 15 meters. We didnt stop but wasnt able to score more goals, but we kept all three points at home with a comfortable win.


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    Week 5: Armagh (Away)

    Two wins in a row, lets make this run longer, and try to secure as many points as we can in the early stage of the season. After 6 minutes central defender Murray scored after a header. 15 minutes later Dean Smith doubled the lead with a close finish. Before the 30 minute mark Armagh scored as well, but the remaining 60 minutes was even and the result stayed the same, another three point is in the bag.



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    Week 6: Larne (Away)

    The squad's morale is high after our recent good run, the players are happy, and they want blood, they want to attack, want to score and want points. We started the game with that mentality, and tried to push the ball between the posts somehow. In the 64th minute we were behind, after a shot what bounced into the net from the post. We tried to come back to the game and save at least a point and in the 81st minute Ross Black did it with a free kick.


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    Week 7: Lurgan Celtic (Home)

    We were sitting in 3rd place and the second placed team came to our home, so a big clash waited for us. Our third place a bit unsurprising, and it was clear that Lurgan is a much better team and the made it clear from the kick-off. After 19 minutes of play Lurgan Celtic had the lead after a close finish, but we were able to hold the result in the rest of the first half. After a long free kick in the 67th minute our keeper Buchanan made an error and Hutchinson doubled Lurgan's lead with a header. That didnt hold them back to score a third and make their goal difference better so just before the whistle Thompson with the help of the post scored their third goal.


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    Week 8: Ballyclare (Home)

    We're demoralised, but we want to bounce back, we need a win to boost the morale and Ballyclare seems good for that. Eddie Hill shocked everyone in the 4th minute, we fell behind really early, we had to wake up. 16th minute Ryan Moffatt got a nice pass and shot the ball into the bottom corner.We pushed them to their goal line almost all game long but after a counter attack in the 79th minute Gary Brown secured the three points for Ballyclare with a close header.


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    League table: After 8 games we're sitting on 9th place of the table, but its really close, the leader is only 5 points away, and 14 games remaining before the split, but we need some improvement if we want to be in the top six.

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    2016 October

    Week 9: H&W Welders (Away)

    We visited the 4th placed side and the bookies predicted an even game with a draw on the end. For me that was a good sign, we were in a poor form, and the other side looked really decent. The bookies were right, that was a really even game, both team had the chances, the guys looked great out there on the bitch, there was no sign of the low morale. In the 52nd minute we broke the ice, to be exact Neil Dougan broke the ice for us, we were up by one with an own goal. They tried to push, but our defence kept the clean sheet. Four minutes before the final whistle after a free kick by Ross Black we secured the win and the three points.

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    League Cup 3rd Round: Dergview (Home)

    We reached our goal in this competition, so we can play without any pressure. Our enemy is the dead last in our league, they're in really poor form, so a I expected a win. We held the ball and waited for the right opportunity to score but Dergview surprised everyone when they got the lead in the 22nd minute. Three minutes later they already doubled it, but we answered immediately in the next minute. Another three minutes later Dergview was up by two again. After 30 minutes of play Warner Mullen earned a red card after a late tackle and left us with 10 men, and two minutes later we were down my three after an ugly own goal. 1-4 in half time, definietly a big surprise and really hurts. Tried to shake up things in half time and climb back to the game. In the 56th minute we pulled one back, but Dergview scored again five minutes later. Steenson reduced the difference once again in the 80th minute, but before the whistle they answered again. That was a complete massacre, we will play against them on the weekend in the league and we want revenge.

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    Week 10: Dergview (Away)

    We wanted to bounce back, we wanted to humiliate them before their crowd just as they did with us in the League Cup, we needed confidence, some morale boost and the three points of course. Both team had chances in the first half, but nothing really happened. It was clear that wont be humiliating for them, but a little goal would make everyone happy. The goal came, but it made the home crowd happy. 12 minutes before the end Steenson was able to equalise and save us one point. Its more than nothing, that point can be really valuable in the end.

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    Week 11: Warrenpoint (Home)

    We played back to back against the last team and we couldn't beat them. What can we expect against the 1st placed team? I can tell the team is playing better when we are underdogs. After 6 minutes Steenson scored and took the lead for us. Well placed shot by Burns in the 21st minute when we doubled our lead. Two minutes later we extended our lead and went to the dressing room with 3-0. After the restart Steenson scored his second goal of the game after a long range shot. Liam Bagnall added himself to the scoresheet and gave his team some hope. In the 77th minute we made it crystal clear that they dont have any chance when we scored our fifth goal. Bagnall didnt give up and scored once again five minutes before the whistle. A big win for us against the league leaders. Maybe its a start of a good run.

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    Week 12: Knockbreda (Away)

    We started game as favourites, created some good chances, we wanted the win better. Before the half hour mark McMahon gave us the lead after a beautiful free kick. In the added time the equaliser came after a turmoil inside the penalty area. That was the worst timing for a goal, but we started the second half with the same efforts as we did in the first half, but after a counter attack in the 68th minute we fell behind. We had to fight for a point again but this time we failed and let the points slip away.

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    Week 13: Institute (Away)

    This season is a complete rollercoaster this far, surprising wins, some good games, after that some poor performances and the cycle restarts. I hope that game is the start of a new cycle. Ross Black nourished my hopes after a well timed header in the 12nd minute. After 31 minutes Ross Holden equalised after a long range shot. Not the first time when we can't defend our lead, its all draw again. Eight minutes later Holden copied his goal and put Institute up by one. After that we didn't have any chance to score we played really poorly, they didn't give up possession, that wasnt the restart i was hoping for.

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    Intermediate Cup 1st Round: Churchill United (Home)

    Huge chance for a massive morale boost against amateur side Churchill United, chance for some rotation and give some minutes for the rest of the squad. Young winger Christian Stewart made his debut unforgettable when he scored in the 14th minute. Two minutes later Klobusek scored as well and doubled the lead. McMahon extended the lead further in the 33rd minute, and we went for half time with a comfortable lead. In the 74th minute Mitchell pulled one back, but two minutes later Ferguson answered after an error. In the added time Colligan scored his team second goal with a close header.

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    League Table: After 13 games we're sitting in the 7th place. Still nine games to go, we would need a top six, and we will see that we can move some places up after the split or not.

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    2016 November


    I'm really tired... We played 17 games in the last three months, i have to think about the replacements because the squad changes every week a little bit, i have to travel from Belfast to Loughgall every day. I can't find a scorer who could help us out, i tried almost everyone in the squad who can play up front but without any success in longer term, so its definietly harder than i imagined when i came here. I thought that wont be easy at all, but its impossible to find any apartment here in Loughgall, so i have to drive 40 miles to Loughgall and another 40 back to Belfast in the evening.



    Week 14: P.S.N.I. (Home)


    Third placed team visited our home, they were on a three match unbeaten run in the league, so it was hard to expect all three points for us especially with our recent poor form in the league. Nothing to say about the game really, both team wanted to hold the ball, and couldn't create decent chances so the game ended with a goalless draw.


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    Intermediate Cup 2nd Round: Lurgan Celtic (Away)


    For the board this competition is not important at all and we had to play against the league leaders, so i decided to give some minutes for other players and rest some starters. I sent the guys to the pitch with no expectations. Lurgan made it clear that they are the better side from the kick-off and after 17 minutes Dale Malone scored after a long range shot. They gave is no chance after that goal and in the 67th minute Malone scored again and decided the game.


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    Mid Ulster Cup 1st Round: Crewe United (Home)


    We were massive favourites against the lower side Crewe United, some starters got some rest again, and that was a perfect opportunity for a long waited win. McMahon broke the ice after 17 minutes with a nice finish. We created chance after chance but can't score until the 65th minute. Ten minutes later Klobusek scored after a nice cross and before the end of the game Marcus Dallas stabbed the knife into their heart with a header.


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    League table: We played only one game in the league this month and dropped down to the 8th place. We have a game in hand against Larne and if we could win that we would climb back to the 7th place and keep our chances alive for the top six.


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    2016 December

    Northern Irish Cup 4th Round: Limavady United (Away)


    Another lower side opponent on this game, we need still need the morale boost and build confidence, but it can be a tricky schedule, so most of the starters have to be on the pitch. Luckily we were able to start the game with some decent chances and in the 15th minute Henderson scored and gave us the lead after a nice shot from the edge of the area. Four minutes later Henderson made a mistake and the referee gave the penalty for Limavady, but Buchanan saved it. We kept pushing for another goal and secure our lead. We had to wait until the 52nd minute when Klobusek doubled the lead after a one on one situation. We stopped their efforts on the midfield and we didnt score on the rest of the game so we stepped into the next round fairly comfortably.


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    Week 15: Larne (Home)

    Its our game in hand against Larne and we really need this three point. We are on a two game win streak the guys seems confident, so everything looks good. We started the game a bit sleepy and they punished us in the 12nd minute after a rebounder. Two minutes later we bounced back by Conaty and the game was all draw again. We didnt have to wait for the next goal, another four minutes later Henderson gave us the lead after a spectacular shot. six minutes later Henderson scored his second goal and extended our lead. Before the half time whistle Steenson scored again after a close range header. Eight minutes after the restart O'Neill scored his team second goal after a rebound as well. In the last 20 minutes McMahon scored twice secured all three points.


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    Week 16: Annagh United (Away)

    We visited the last placed team and started the game as favuorites and after 13 minutes Conaty gave us the lead. 20 minutes later Michael Webb fouled Conaty and the referee awarded the penalty. Henderson stepped up, and scored. 12 minutes after the restart Higginbotham scored as well after a rebound, and that was his first goal in Loughgall. We wasnt able to keep the clean sheet McCann shot into the net 3 minutes before the whistle.


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    League table: Six games left, and we're sitting in 6th place 2 points ahead H&W Welders. We're in good form and i really hope we can continue that in January.

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    2017 January


    After the undefeated December everyone was happy, confident and that was a nice early Christmas present for me and every Loughgall fan. I wasnt able to travel back to Hungary for the holidays because i couldnt afford it and we started really early in January.



    Week 17: Armagh (Home)

    Everyone wanted to continue our recent good run so the lads ran out to the field with hunger. After the 15 minute mark Klobusek gave us the lead. We pushed really hard but we couldnt score in the rest of the first half. In the 56th minute McMahon doubled the lead and made it fairly comfortable for us. Two minutes later Klobusek ran after the long ball and found into the net again. Another six minutes later Murray gave some hope for Armagh fans, but the rest of the game was goalless so another three points in the bag.


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    Northern Irish Cup 5th Round: Glenavon (Home)

    Glenavon sat on 6th position in the first division, but the board expected at least 6th Round in this cup so if we want to reach it we have to win somehow. Surprisingly we wasnt the worse team, we controlled the game but couldnt find into the net. Until the 83rd minute when Ross Black scored after a free kick from 25 yards. That goal decided the game and we reached the 6th Round.


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    Mid Ulster Cup Quarter Final: Portadown (Home)

    Portadown is in the first division, they are dead last so after the last game it should be an easier game, but football doesnt work like that. We played really poorly, we couldnt get the ball into the attacking third, made so many poor passes. After 15 minutes Portadown took the lead, but for a while they couldnt score again. In the last 20 minutes they scored twice again and sent us home with a demoralizing result. Our defense collapsed three times, our midfield played without any creativity and with so many mistakes and we cant win games like that.


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    Week 18: H&W Welders (Home)

    Another home game and i hoped we could give the fans something back and bounce back. The teams were fairly even, but we broke the ice earlier by Stewart in the 22nd minute. Two minutes later H&W had an answer already. The teamas went to the dressing room with all draw and that seemed a fair result. We started the second half better and five minutes after the restart Steenson scored and gave us the lead once again after a rebound. H&W scored twice in 2 minutes and came back to the game and they were ready to ship the three points. Stewart thought it differently and two minutes before the whistle he saved us a very precious point.


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    League table: With four games remaining we climbed up to the 5th place. Our goal difference is really good, and we are in a really good spot, but we cant be lazy until we dont secure our spot in the Championship Group.

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    2017 February

    We were really rapsodic in January and we have to bring some consistency because we are looking good, but if we cant keep our heads clear it can cause some problems and i really dont want that.



    Northern Irish Cup 6th Round: Dungannon (Home)

    Another first league side, they were sit on 5th place, we reached our goal, so the guys played without expectations. In the first half both team had some chances but none of our shots found the target while their's did, so our defense and the Buchanan kept our chances alive. The second half was the same mostly, but there was a big difference. Stefan Lavery after a long range shot scored in the 69th minute and that was the only goal of the game. We had 9 shots in the game, same as Dungannon, but our every shot missed the target. At least we were consistent some way, but i thought it differently. Nevermind, the league is more important if we collect points i will be a happy man.


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    Week 19: Lurgan Celtic (Away)

    Lurgan is behind us by two points, so its a really important game for both team. If we win we would have a comfortable lead ahead of 7th position, but if we lose, we find ourselves in a tough situation. I sent the lads to the pitch with that in mind. Both team had chances but those were really weak ones until the 39th minute. Adam Rodgers tripped Steenson and the referee gave us a penalty. Henderson stepped behind the ball calmly.... and Murphy saved. Tried to calm things down in half time, the teams were really even, but i wanted to come out on top, i wanted that win. Stewart shipped us the win in the 71st minute, when he took advantage of a defensive error and scored. We had to show some heroic defense in the last 10 minutes, but Lurgan couldn't score so really important three points in the bag.


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    Week 20: Ballyclare (Away)

    We visit 4th placed team, with a win we could jump above them on the table, both they are in good form as well, so it seems a tough game. We stayed in the dressing room and Ballyclare took advantage of it, O'Hanlon scored in the 4th minute already. We started to push, wanted to score somehow, but Flood kept the clean sheet. In the 55th minute he was helpless when Henderson scored from the spot after a tripping. It was good to see that he bounced back after the last game. We tried to secure the win, but werent able to score again. We were the better side, beside the first 10 minutes, so its a missed opportunity, but we played well, so the glass is half full.


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    Week 21: Warrenpoint (Away)

    First placed team... We surprised them on our first match and i hope the same this time as well. We are massive underdogs, so the pressure is on them, and if we play like we did against Ballyclare we can surprise them again. They play with three defenders again and i feel that made them really vulnerable on the first game so that makes me a bit happy and im hoping. We started the game better, they seemed a bit overconfident and they paid for it in the 17th minute after McMahon's header. Stewart doubled our lead before the half hour mark after a long range shot, and in the rest of the first half Warrenpoint players seemed really confused, they didnt understand what happened to them. After the restart they gained some confidence from their manager, but they couldnt score until the 83rd minute. That was to late to let them come back to the game, so we killed the game in the last 5 minutes and did everything to secure the win.


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    League table: Only one game left for us against 11th placed Dergview. We are 8 points ahead of 7th placed H&W, so we have our spot in the Championship Group after the split, so i can be pleased with our efforts so far.


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    2017 March


    Week 22: Dergview (Home)


    A win could see us on the top of the table if the other games go on our favour. 11th placed Dergview, they tricked us in the League Cup and in the league as well, so we cant be overconfident. If we want achieve bigger things after the split we would need these easy points but beside that there is no stake. We started the game as massive favourites but Dergview showed some heroic defense until the 37th minute. Christian Stewart found to net after a nice volley from Conaty's cross. Four minutes after the restart Campbell scored for Dergview and equalised. It seemed they really hate us and wont let us go with all three points. McMahon took us the lead again 7 minutes later after a nice header. We created so many chances after that as well, and in the injury time Steenson was the quickest after the rebound and secured the win.


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    League table: We stayed in the 3rd place after the last game, if that would be the final standings we could play in the Playoffs. It will be definietly hard to keep that position on the last 5 games, but we will try it and hopefully we will get the chance to fight for the first league.


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    2017 April


    On 3rd of April the chairman came to my office. I didnt notice him as he stepped in because i was so deep in my thoughts as we were one day before the first match of that stage.


    "Thats what i like about you Mr Gregor"

    "Oh, good afternoon Mr McCann!" I saw him very often in the clubhouse, but never came to my office before.

    "I know youre busy right now, but as you know your contract going to expire in three months. Im really satisfied with your efforts, the players are love you, and i think its the best opportunity to extend your contract."

    "Uh, i dont know what to say Mr McCann, i know that i signed a one year contract when i arrived, but i didnt think about that yet, my toughts are full with our upcoming matches" He put down a folder to my desk what was in his hands but i didnt notice that.

    "You dont have to answer right now. I leave it here, if you have any questions you can find me in my office" Theh he left, and i stood in my office for a while.

    On the evening i thought a lot about the extension, then i decided that i accept it. Im fairly familiar here, it would be hard to find another job with my reputation so the best option is to stay here if the chairman wants the same.


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    Week 23: Lurgan Celtic (Away)

    First game after the split, we faced 6th placed team, but the table is very close, so there is no room for mistakes becuase we can find ourselves on the bottom of the group relatively easily. We started where we left off after Dergview match, and Henderson scored after 22 seconds and we took the lead. Four minutes later Lurgan had an answer by Lavery after a free kick from the edge of the area. Another 15 minutes later Fitzpatrick took the lead for Lurgan. We pushed even harder after that second goal but cant score. Our defense opened up, and in the injury time McCarten scored after a counter attack. After the game somehow we stayed in the 3rd place, but that was unacceptable, we have to win these games.


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    Week 24: Institute (Home)

    The 5th placed team came into Loughgall, their new manager was in charge a for about a week so things looked bright from our side. That was a really competitive match, but it was goalless in the first 45. In the 63rd minute Institute was able to break the ice by Eoin Kane after a nice finish. After that they tried to kill the game and they did it successfully, so no points for us this time again. We wasnt lucky this time, we dropped down to the 4th place, but still had chance for the playoffs.


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    Week 25: Ballyclare (Away)

    It was a big surprise around the league that Ballyclare finished in the top six after they were predicted to the last place in the league. They were sitting in 6th before our clash, but they are capable to beat any team and with our recent form... i wasnt calm at all. And i became more nervous after the 5th minute when O'Hanlon took the lead for Ballyclare. This stage is a complete nightmare so far... Ten minutes later McMahon equalised and gave us some hope, but that was all, our midfield played really poor, couldnt create decent chances so the game ended with a draw. That single point kept us in the 4th place, but with two games left we have to wake up immediately.


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    Week 26: Warrenpoint (Home)

    Two games, two wins so far against them, so it could be a good sign, but its not that easy. we worked so hard all week because still had a tiny chance for that 3rd place and the Playoffs. About the game... well, nothing happened. Really inaccurate passes from both midfield so it was impossible to build decent attacks and create really big chances. The game ended with a goalless draw. We dropped down another place, but if we win against league leaders on the last week and results go on our favour we can get that 3rd place.


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    Week 27: P.S.N.I. (Home)

    Last game in the league, but hopefully not the last in the season. A win could see P.S.N.I. secure the title, but we need this win as well and hope that we can sneak into the top 3. We played subordinated role from the kick off they completely outplayed us, but Buchanan saved us so many times. The big surprise arrived from Klobusek in the 29th minute and gave us the lead. I knew that they will attack more and we have tighten our defense if we want to stay ahead. Our other chance is a counter attack and try to score another goal. I decided that the best would be the transition between the two. Luckily Buachanan and the defense held out, so its not a problem that we couldnt score again. We took the three points what we needed.


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    League table: In the end, we climbed back to the 4th place, only one point behind 3rd placed Institute. They played against Warrenpoint last week and a draw secured the title for Warrenpoint and the 3rd place for Institute. We woke up too late after the split and that cost us the promotion dreams.


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    2016/17 Season summary and awards


    After our last game, i had time to think about our season. Summarized im satisfied with our team. The 4th place is good enough after my first year as a manager. We were really hectic at some point of the season, and it hurts a bit that we missed the opportunity for the playoffs and the promotion, but before the start of the season everyone expected us finishing in 7th place, so fair to say that we overachieved.


    As every year the fans voted the team of the season, the best player, the best young player, best signing, and the goal of the season.


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    Gareth Buchanan: Played 27 games in the season with 79% save ratio. Saved us a few points through the season, played without major errors so he was a really stable point in the starting 11. Only 25 years old, really tall keeper, so this position is secure for years if he turns down other offers.


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    Ross Black: 28 years old left back. Played 35 games in the season. Scored 4 goals and gave 4 assists. He did everything what a good full back have to do. In defense he was a tough opponent a stopped so many attacks, in the attacking third he played dangerously and overloaded the left side. Really good player i can hope that we can keep him somehow.


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    Chris Murray: 28 years old central defender, i brought him here on the end of August. Played 31 games and he was so great. He collected only 2 yellow cards in the season, and played really important role in our defense. Larne and Knockbreda are interested about him already, so i have to convince him somehow thats better for him if he stays with us.


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    Stephen Hutchinson: 27 years old central defender. Played 29 games in the season, mostly in the second half of the season and i have to say it was a mistake that i didnt give him the opportunity earlier. It was great to see him playing, he was confident all 90 minutes, and with Murray they were like a brick wall most of time.


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    Aaron O'Hagan: 24 years old. He can play as central defender right back, and central midfielder. In the first half of the season played as central defender, but in the second half he played as a right back. He got 35 games in the season and he was really good as a central defender and as a right back as well. In the next season he will get the right back role if Murray stays.


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    Gary Henderson: 21 years old central midfielder. Played 35 games this season, his pass ratio was 83%, made some great tackles, and interceptions. Scored 9 goals and gave 6 assists. Every attack went through him and at this young age he did really well, im really proud of him, big talent i really want to keep him here and i will do everything i can to make him stay.


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    Matthew McMahon: 22 years old central midfielder. Another young central midfielder, his pass ratio was over 80% as well on his 37 games. Scored 9 goals and gave 7 assists, and made so many interceptions. Really important piece of the team as well especially with Henderson, so its important to keep them together here, because the fans voted him the best player of the season, and best young player of the season as well.


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    Christian Stewart: 21 years old left winger, the fans voted him the best signing of the season. Played only 22 games, scored 7, gave 4 assists. His shot ratio not the best yet, but in the attacking third he was really dangerous and he will be our starting left winger in the next season.


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    Marcus Dallas: 27 years old attacking midfielder. Played on the left wing in the first half of the season, in the second half he was a central attacking midfielder. Played 35 games, his pass ratio over 80% as well, but my only problem that some games he was lost. We cant let that happen, if i cant find any better option in the offseason he will start next season as well.


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    Adam Steenson: 22 years old right winger. He played some games as a striker and i thought that he will be our main scorer, but i was wrong. He is better if he can play on the right wing, but we was really hectic. Some good games, some really poor ones. He is really inconsistent, but the fans thought he deserved it with his 12 games. He scored 8 goals and gave 4 assists. He had better games against lower league sides but in the league he had some problems, but if he improves he can be a really good winger.



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    Jakub Klobusek: 21 years old striker. Played 23 games, his shot ratio is just under 60%. Scored 7, gave 2 assists. He seemed our best chance up front be i couldnt say that worked. We would need a striker who can score consistently because that was one of our biggest weakness.


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    The squad is really young so the future seems bright, if they can improve as i expect we can be massive contenders for the promotion.

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    2017/18 Preseason


    After the season the players went to their holidays in early may and we agreed that we start the preseason on late June. I had some free time as well, so i travelled back home, visited my family, relaxed. I really needed that recharge because i know that i will have a lot of work to do when i come back. I knew that i have to rebuild my backroom staff, because everyone wanted to leave because the club is to small for them. I needed a coach, a physio, a scout and an assistant. I placed adverts for every role and waited. I looked the news and i saw rumours about my key players everywhere. Then Larne made an offer for Buchanan, so i invited him to my office and we talked. I was glad that he wants to stay so we agreed that he will get slightly more money after his appearances and that made him stay. I had a similar conversation and agreement with Murray and he stayed as well. In the meantime the preseason friendlies started as well. We used and practiced the same tactic as last year, tried a few players. We played against Scottish 4th league side Clyde, lower league teams from Northern Ireland and against first division team Cliftonville. The friendlies went really well, the result wasnt important, the guys needed some sharpness, but luckily we could came away with some good results as well.


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    I kept the squad together, beside our backup keeper who wanted to leave, but i found a replacement quickly so it didnt cause any problem. I signed a new backup left back, and another central attacking midfielder because i wasnt satisfied with Dallas last season in this role and i wanted some competition for the starting 11 spot. We are after a successful preseason, i wait our first game, the new season, im full with energy, im familiar around the league, the guys are strong, so everything is set for a good campaign.

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    2017 August

    Consistency. That has to be our motto for the upcoming season. After the last year rollercoaster it will be really important. We can play really great, we can have a chance for promotion if we can keep our heads clear.



    Week 1: Ballyclare (Home)

    Ballyclare finished 6th last year, kept their squad together, so we can expect the same team as last year. They are predicted to the last place this year, so its a good opportunity for a great season start. We started the game really strong, the lads wanted a good start as well, and ater 6 minutes Conaty gave as the lead after a close range header. We pushed, wanted to extend our lead but after 45 minutes the result was the same. I praised the guys for their efforts and told them to keep pushing. In the 57th minute Henderson scored his first goal in the season with a beautiful volley after a corner. Ballyclare had no real chance in the rest of the game, and we didnt find the back of the net again, so we started the season with a comfortable win.


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    Week 2: Ards (Away)

    We visited freshly relegated Ards on our second game. I was a little bit worried, 2 years ago they won the second division so they cant be a bad team. Signed some new players after the last year unsuccessful campaign, but they are black horses for me. The game started really even, and the first half ended with a goalless draw. On the start of the second half we put some pressure on them and their keeper made a huge mistake. Greg Hall passed the ball back to the keeper who missed it and the ball found its way to the net, so we were up by one after 54 minutes. Seven minutes later Henderson extended our lead after a shot from the edge of the area. Another seven minutes later Ards scored as well by McComb after a nice finish from long range. In the last ten minutes we did everything to keep that result and bring home all three points and we did it.


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    Week 3: Dergview (Away)

    Dergview stayed in the second division after they won their relegation playoff games, so they were really close to start this season in the third league but they stayed with us. Surprisingly they started the game better but our defense did their job and kept the clean sheet. On the other hand we couldnt score in the first half either. 12 minutes after the restart their efforts paid off after a header by Lecky. Our fans didnt have to wait for the answer too long, only three minutes later Klobusek got some space in the area and equalised. With 16 minutes to go Klobusek scored his second and turned the game after he beat his defender and the keeper as well. Just before the whistle Klobusek completed his hat-trick and stabbed the knife into their heart after a nice shot.


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    League Cup 2nd Round: Dungannon (Away)

    Dungannon finished 8th in the first division last season so it would be a real test after our convincing games in the second league. Because of fitness issues i had to sent out a B team, so i had no expectations. we wasnt frightened, tried to play our game but after the 15 minute mark Duke gave the lead for the home team. Higginbotham equalised after 32 minutes so we went to the dressing room with a draw. In the second half they couldnt break our defence, but after Henderson pushed the striker inside the area the referee awarded a penalty. They scored and that was the winning goal, because they were able to keep the result.


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    League table: After the perfect month we found ourselves in the 1st place and we have a game in hand as well. If we would win that game we would have a 4 point lead already, but the season is long and we have to keep ourselves to our motto.


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    On the end of the month the league awarded me with my first Manager of the Month award and i have to say its a really good feeling, but i have to find a good place for it.


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