THE Redmond O’Hanlon’s club in Poyntzpass has invited potential senior players to get in touch in order to safeguard their participation in the Junior League and Championship.
The county Armagh club were junior championship and league winners in the late 1990s and early 2000s but in recent times emigration and retirements have taken their toll on the senior team.
O’Hanlon’s have also been threatened with the loss of promising young players to other clubs in the county despite the fact that those clubs have large squads at senior level.
That has had a huge impact on their playing resources and now the club is appealing for anyone with any interest in playing to get in contact.
Club member Andy Watters explained that while the club’s existence is not in doubt given the brilliant work being done at underage level, there is a real threat to the senior team’s participation.
“We face the same problems that many other rural clubs have to deal with,” said the Irish News journalist.
“We have a very good underage structure these days and a lot of very talented young players coming through but the senior team has been struggling for numbers over the past three or four years.
“We were going to games with maybe only 12 players at times and lot of credit has to go to the lads who stuck it out – including Charlie Magill who has been in the Armagh squad and is the outstanding player in the junior division.
“A lot of lads like Charlie could play at a higher level but they have chosen to stay loyal to their local club. Unfortunately you can’t keep operating off a small squad so that’s why we are putting out an open invitation to anyone who is interested in playing for O’Hanlon’s to get in touch.
“We have done a lot of work around the club in the last few years. We have an excellent pitch in Poyntzpass now, very good facilities and if we could get some new faces in the club would be on a much more secure footing.”
Despite their low numbers, the senior team has experienced improved results in the last couple of years and there is a feeling that a few extra bodies could really compliment a talented young core.
“We have excellent facilities at the club these days and a vibrant and successful underage structure but we are facing the same challenges that many rural clubs have to cope with nowadays,” Watters continued.
“Anyone who is interested in training twice-a-week and playing football for the club at junior level is very welcome to get in touch.
“We currently field teams from u-6 and u-14 level and we are always open to new underage players and coaches getting involved.”
The O’Hanlon’s club is noted for its association with former Irish Rugby captain Rory Best.
His father John is a long-term member while his two nephews also play at under-age level for the Orchard County club.
Their father is Rory’s brother Simon Best, who also played for Ireland, before being retiring from the game due to a medical condition in 2008.
Its most famous former player is John Rafferty who enjoyed plenty of silverware during Armagh’s resurgence in the late 1990s.
The club recently celebrated the 120th anniversary of the first recorded game of football in Poyntzpass, a match held in 1899.
A day of football and fun was held in September and included a 120-lap solo run completed by current, future and pass players and supporters, a challenge match against Ballyvarley Masters (the team Poyntzpass played in the 1899 game) and entertainment and music in the club.
O’Hanlon’s prides itself on being a welcoming club and anyone, regardless of skill level, interested in finding out more is encouraged to do so.
For further information, contact 07972593705 (Robert) or 07855479337 (Andy).