BY CHRIS MCNULTY
FOR the first time in over a decade, Donegal League football returns to Maghery this Sunday.
The demise of the former Maghery Celtic and St Crone’s teams in the late 1990s left locals without a team of their own, but that all changes on Sunday when Strand Rovers play host to neighbouring Keadue Rovers in a Brian McCormick Cup clash that has captured the area.
The new Strand Rovers club will play in the Glencar Inn Division 2 in the Saturday League and will be based at Strand Park, the former home of the previous teams that represented the area.
A rise in development in the area has seen the rocketing of interest, with new state-of-the art facilities giving the club a solid base from which to work. The passing of time meant that some works had to be carried out to Strand Park. The club was refused admittance to the Donegal League a year ago as the steel goalposts which stood on the pitch weren’t permitted and the playing area had to be lengthend.
The barriers have been crossed, though, and, finally, Strand Rovers are ready to get up and running. Their opening two Brian McCormick Cup games are at home to Keadue and away to Arranmore. They’ve played several friendly games lately, including a 5-1 win over Fintown Harps in a game during the Maghery Festival.
“It’ll be nice now to get it up and running at last. It has been very busy,” says Stephen Barrett, the club chairman.
“We’re looking forward to it. None of us have experience of running a club and because we’re such a new club this year will be about learning the ropes as such and getting experience. It will take us a while.”
Barrett is the chairman and the manager of the team.
“I can sack myself at any time!” he says.
The new club was the brianchild of Barrett, his brother-in-law David Molloy and Jonathan Stewart.
“It is about three years since we got the process started,” he says.
“There has been no team in Maghery since the late 1990s. We had Maghery Celtic and we had St Crone’s for a couple of seasons, but they folded and the pitch has been sitting idle since with no-one using it.
“There is a new community centre built alongside the pitch, a fine big centre it is. As well as they centre, they built new changing facilities for the football field. The pitch was lying going to a loss. A group of us had been playing astro and indoor football in Dungloe. We approached the committee of the new centre and I have to say we have had their full support from day one.
“We have had great support from the whole community.”
The team is an all-locally based one and the club has had no difficulty in adhering to the conditions set down by the Donegal League.
Barrett says: “One of the conditions of us getting accepted into the League was that we didn’t sign any players who were signed with other Donegal League clubs.
“We’re trying to promote soccer as best we can in the area and because we have been so well supported by the local people, it has made our struggle a lot less.
“It still took a good bit of work. You be doing something with the club every day. We’re up and running now, though, and we have all local lads involved, ranging in ages from 16 to 45.”
The team will wear yellow and royal blue home jersies and there will be a hat tip to the past with the away shirts the same green and white hoops that were the colours of Maghery Celtic.
“We wanted to continue the tradition,” Barrett says.
“The pitch at Strand Park has been there for over 30 years. There is a great heritage here and we want to get that up and running again.”
Maghery is a community that’s on the rise – and now it has a football team of its own again.
“The population had gone down, but the facilities in the locality seem to be atrracting people back,” Barrett explains.
“When I left Roisin National School there were only 38 pupils there and two teachers. Now, the numbers are up to nearly 70 and it’s a four-teacher school now. The community is growing now again.”