FOOTBALL: The future’s bright for Banbridge Town’s Class of ’17

Banbridge Town Reserves captain Sean Montgomery (left) and vice-captain Brian Johnston (right) lift the NIFL Championship Development League South trophy at Crystal Park. Pic: David Hunter/NI Football League
Banbridge Town Reserves captain Sean Montgomery (left) and vice-captain Brian Johnston (right) lift the NIFL Championship Development League South trophy at Crystal Park. Pic: David Hunter/NI Football League

Second teams are judged on far more than their own success, but Banbridge Town Reserves’ league title bodes well for the future.

That’s the view of manager Christian Beattie after his side cruised to the Championship Development League South crown, finishing a full 10 points clear of second placed Lisburn Distillery II.

Banbridge Town Reserves begin the celebrations after sealing the NIFL Championship Development League South title. Pic: David Hunter/NI Football League

Banbridge Town Reserves begin the celebrations after sealing the NIFL Championship Development League South title. Pic: David Hunter/NI Football League

The season was full of highlights, not least a 10-0 win over the runners-up and an 8-0 success over Lurgan Celtic’s Reserves.

“Obviously our priority is to develop players but I always believed that we need to compete as well. Players have to learn to win, to compete and to grind out results,” said the boss. “Everybody can’t put in a nine or a ten performance every week so they have to learn how to get the job done when that happens.

“We set a realistic target for each season and this year we wanted to get a top four finish so to go out and win the league was probably a bit of a surprise, even for me.

“Everything just seemed to click. Everybody had a good pre-season and came in fit and raring to go. We just seemed to hit the ground running.”

As Beattie concedes, any reserve side will be measured more on the success of individual players rather than as a second team collective.

But a glance at the Town’s first team panel reiterates the success of the back up panel. Danny Devlin and Stephen McCavitt have both hit the headlines with shining performances for the senior squad, while the likes of James Wilson, Brian Johnston, Jordan Hayes and Nathan Weir have all made the step up.

“That’s exactly what we want to see,” said Beattie. “Trying to attract players can be difficult when Banbridge Town don’t have a big financial clout so the emphasis has to be on youth and both Stuart (King - former first team manager) and Ronnie (Haughey - current manager) have been keen to give our lads a chance.

“If the players are good enough and are showing the right attitude, they will get their opportunity.

“Danny (Devlin) has gone in at left-back and played more games than he expected himself probably and Stephen (McCavitt) seems to be pretty much considered the first choice striker at the club after not getting much game-time for the first team at the start of the season.”

Three years since the merger of Banbridge Town and Banbridge AFC, Beattie reckons the emergence of those young players and the league trophy both point to the success of the move.

“It has definitely served both parties well,” he said. “In the first season, we mixed our older players from AFC with some of the younger ones we brought into the second team. Then come the second season, we already had some of the young guys blooded and could bring a few more through. And this season we have a very young squad. It’s been a process designed to progress our players.”

Town Reserves’ season isn’t over yet. They begin their George Wilson Cup campaign on Tuesday evening at home to Bangor Reserves. Should they progress in that tie, they could come up against a Premiership club’s second team, the competition continuing with round two on Saturday.

“I would like to thank the players for all their efforts, the Banbridge Town Supporters Club for all the help they give us, Stuart King and Ronnie Haughey for their work with the players and my assistant Anthony Blackburn as well,” concluded Beattie.