By Michael McMullan
MONEYGLASS are in “bonus territory” as they embark on this weekend’s Antrim Senior Championship opener insists Colum Duffin.
Before a ball was kicked this season, there mantra was all about promotion to Division One which they secured with two games to spare and they now set their targets on moving up a level.
They failed to register a single score in their humbling at the hands of Cargin last season and face Ahoghill on Sunday in a championship group that also includes another local derby against Portglenone and Belfast side St Brigid’s.
“The league was our number one priority and we are in bonus territory,” insists former Antrim player Duffin.
“It’s progression and we see ourselves as wanting to get up there at the top table. The only way to do that is to be playing the top teams consistently.”
After reaching the 2019 intermediate final, they went one better the following year by taking the title.
“It was great to win and put silverware on the table,” Duffin added. “There were great celebrations, but in terms of progression it was a once off…the league, we saw it as the backbone.”
Their promotion allows them to pull up a seat at the top table after always seeing themselves as the league’s best team.
Last season, with a spate of injuries to key players, Moneyglass never really got off the ground and their league challenge was over before it made it around the first corner.
“At the start of the year it was fairly tight and we kept plugging away,” Duffin said of this season, under manager Hugh Carey.
It wasn’t about looking at their opponents, it was about “playing the table” every week, with the two points on offer always the target in their sights.
A midweek blip at Ardoyne saw them return from Belfast empty-handed and there was a draw against St Paul’s in an otherwise successful season.
Duffin also hails the club’s recent development. Four years ago they launched a fundraising draw to bring in over £400k allowing them to source more land.
After also pouring money into diggers and drainage, they aim to sow out a new pitch with the tail end of 2023 as a target for use.
No longer will they have to head off to St Mary’s Grammar School Magherafelt for their pre-season training base.
“It’s hard to get boys out because you have to travel even for training… every day is an away day for us,” added Duffin, who has put his construction background to good use by lending help to their off the pitch plans.
He speaks of the club’s thriving epicentre.
The ladies reclaimed a first senior championship and improved youth structures helped yield five county minors this season.
“That is unheard of for a small club like us,” Duffin added. “Over the last decade we have got our house in order. We have a lot of ex-players managing the teams and that definitely helps. You can see it coming through in our young lads. Their trajectory is upwards and it’s a positive club to be around.”
They have further improvement in their sights and a qualification group they feel they are better placed after last year’s “steep learning curve” against Cargin.
“We play Ahoghill on Sunday and that is going to be a big one…there are local derbies in there. We had six games in the group last year and we feel we are coming in better prepared.”