DOLLINGSTOWN FC are preparing for the biggest game in the club’s 34-year history.
The local side who clinched a league and cup double this season face Newington in the first leg of their Championship 2 play-off at Planters Park on Tuesday night with a 7.00pm start.
It is a huge ask for Dollingstown with Newington a crack outfit and last season local fans will remember they knocked Glentoran out of the Irish Cup at The Oval.
Over two legs the Belfast side may be favourites, but Dollingstown will go all out to keep the tie alive and produce a positive result on Tuesday night.
“We have had a week off from competitive football but got back to training on Tuesday night,” said manager Gary Duke.
“Everyone at the club knows just how big the game is. This was our target at the start of the season to be in with a chance of promotion and it is still very much in our own hands.”
“Newington will start as favourites but that does not really mean anything because we went down to H&W Welders last year and won 2-1 so we know we can produce the big results. It is vital we carry something into the second leg and keep the tie alive and put some pressure on them.
“The first 20 minutes or so will all be about settling down and then we shall see who comes out on top after that. Sometimes nerves play a part, it can be a good thing if you can channel those nerves in the right way and get into the game. I have told the players to give me 100 per cent and if they do that and come off and look me in the eye and say we could not have done any more and are beaten by the better team then there is nothing we can do about that.”
Club President Hubert Watson is hoping the dream can become a reality.
“If we perform to our highest standards and have solid work ethic then our dream could at last be fulfilled after many years of hard work and investment,” said Hubert.
“When I joined DFC in 1998 on my return from work in England we set out on trying to take the club to new levels rather than merely existing in Mid-Ulster Division 3 and playing at the Gordon Playing Fields long term.
“We got our own ground around 12 years ago and each year made steady improvements to the ground as the team climbed through the divisions to eventually get to into Intermediate A some seven years ago.
“We then brought in Gary Duke whose ambition was to take the club to the next level of Championship football and our club endorsed this goal and made the further investments needed a few years ago to get the ground up to championship standard which included new 200 seater grandstand and new dugouts.
“Under Gary we have won seven trophies including the league and cup double this year and were hoping that two places would be available this year following Newry’s withdrawal and one relegation.
“However the IFA changed their rules again mid-season to declare there would be no relegation and thus Chimney Corner who have finished bottom of league for last five seasons get another reprieve and we have play-off next week against Newington.
“We are an ambitious club and all players plus the committee want to compete at as high a level as possible. We only need to see the success of Warrenpoint who we competed against only four years ago.”