ST MARY’S Convoy are flying high in Division 3 at the moment, but their manager Laurence McMullan says consolidating their position in the third tier is the main objective.
Burt currently lead the way but Convoy, Downings, Gaeil Fhánada are all in joint-second on ten points, with Naomh Colmcille one behind in fifth.
It’s a tight league, and while Convoy are taking on bottom of the table Naomh Ultan at home today (throw-in, 3pm), McMullan is quick to point out that the Dunkineely men are only five points behind his charges.
The Convoy player-manager would love to see his team in a promotion battle, but the main priority at the moment is to guarantee their safety as soon as possible.
“Our number one aim is to consolidate our position in Division 3.
“We were in Division 4 for a long time and we don’t want to go back down there.
“We’re in the mix at the other end of the table now, and if we can accumulate enough points on the table, and are still in the mix in a few months, then we will see how we go.
“But just looking at the table, two wins could leave you in a very good position, but two bad results could bring you right down to the bottom.”
Convoy boast one of the best club grounds in the county, and over the last decade, they have featured in numerous underage finals.
There are signs that their good work is now filtering through to the senior ranks.
“We do have plenty of good players and we have always been able to produce good footballers.
“The problem we have had is getting the right consistency every year.
“We look at the likes of Milford who we used to play against every year, and try to draw from that.
“Our opponents this week, Naomh Ultan went up to Division 3 and consolidated, and then were right in the mix for promotion until the end of the following season.
“Getting out of Division 4 was a massive milestone for us and it was good for the confidence.
“If they keep putting in the effort and the attitude is right then who knows what we might do.”
Convoy picked up an excellent win over Fanad last week, and it was all the more impressive considering county Under 20 player Paddy Dolan wasn’t available.
McMullan’s men hit the net on four occasions in that game, and the crucial first goal came from the imposing figure that is Packie Mailey.
The 31-year-old is best known locally for his endeavours on the soccer field having played for Hibernian, Stenhousemuir, Finn Harps, Derry City, and Ballinamallard.
However, Mailey has now parked that code, and is concentrating on gaelic football matters with his local club.
McMullan said: “Packie has been playing midfield for us mainly, although we do push him inside sometimes depending on who we are playing.
“He has loads of experience from playing soccer, and he has that leadership that we need.
“For a few years there we had a very young team and we struggled when the pressure came on.
“We have that leadership now, and Packie is also a big presence around the pitch, and Raymie (McNamee), and James Kee are big men as well.
“We probably have a more balanced team now. In saying that we have lost Anthony Browne, and two or three more are talking about heading away to Australia, but I suppose every club is in the same boat with that.
“We do have good young players stepping up like Paddy Dolan, Bryan McNamee, Joseph McGill, and John Toye, who scored a hat-trick last week.”
St Mary’s are conceding just 11 points on average per game, and only Naomh Brid have a better record than that and they have played a game less than Convoy.
Shipping three goals against Malin did make them work on their backline, but McMullan says they aren’t an overly defensive team.
“Well we shifted a lot of goals down in Malin so we had to have a look at it.
“It just depends on the game really and who you are playing.
“Last week when we played Fanad, it was more open and there were a lot of goal chances.
“The week before it was a real war of attrition against Burt, and they just had the experience to grind it out.
“Just by looking at the other results in the league, there are a lot of tight games, and Malin beat Red Hugh’s with a last minute goal two weeks ago.
“A lot of the games are going right down to the wire, and it is a very competitive league.”
It hasn’t been a stellar season so far for Naomh Ultan, who only have five points to their name.
However, the two games that they have won have been by a point, so they are a gritty, competitive team, and McMullan won’t be taking them for granted.
“We’re happy to have ten points, but we know we will face another massive test again on Sunday.
“We drew with them at the start of the year, and we both won one each last year, so there’s not much between us.
“They have plenty of good players like Cian Kennedy, Dermot Gallier, and Daniel Gallagher.
“I’ll have to see what we have available this week at training. We have used 25 players in eight league games already.
“People have been away because of weddings, holidays, exams, and other things, but hopefully we will have most of our panel there this week.”