Gary Duke has promised to hand his Mid-Ulster treble winners a chance to secure Irish League safety for Dollingstown.
Dollingstown recovered from a first-leg deficit to confirm promotion into next season’s NIFL Championship Two on Saturday by beating Brantwood 5-2 at a packed Planters Park. Colin Cunningham’s hat-trick and goals by Adam Walker and Neil Clydesdale ultimately helped Dollingstown over the line as Duke’s men made amends for last year’s play-off pain against Newington YC.
Now, having finally achieved the dream of promotion out of the Mid-Ulster Football League, Duke is facing a summer of tough decisions to assemble a squad capable of protecting the club’s Championship status. Although the former Irish League midfielder is determined to use his contacts to strengthen overall, Duke remains loyal to the players who experienced every up and down of Dollingstown’s recent rise.
“It will be important to keep the guys on board and I feel this current squad could finish mid-table in the Championship,” said Duke. “I will be bringing players with me as they deserve the chance to try the Irish League, with many here for four or five years at least.
“We will be talking to the players over the next few days and I know, for example, Mark Savage has retired as a player but will hopefully stay on as assistant manaer.
“Those still on board will need to work hard on fitness levels ahead of pre-season training.
“We want to build and go up another gear so it is about using whatever connections to bring in players with experience to add to the squad.”