Castledawson embracing top flight return in Derry

By Michael McMullan

CASTLEDAWSON are back in Division One for the first time since 2010 when new manager Paddy Linden steered them to intermediate league and championship in his previous stint.

The Belfast native, now living in Tyrone, highlighted the efforts of outgoing Niall Jackman at getting the ‘Dawson promoted last season.

“It’s all a big adventure, it’s all new to them,” he said. “The majority of these players wouldn’t even have played against these clubs at juvenile level. They are wide-eyed new boys just taking it all in.”

Linden came in as a “fresh pair of eyes” with Fionntan O’Dowd staying on as coach. Noel McKenna has remained on board with Séamus Ó Tuama joining the setup after being involved with Linden at St Paul’s in Belfast.

Experienced duo Kieran O’Kane and Conor Scullion remain from Linden’s first term as manager.

“They are probably as fit now as they were then,” Linden joked. “There’s that good blend of experience and there are lot of young players coming through and performing well for us.”

Having being promoted with Lavey going the other way down into Division Two, Castledawson were presented with the challenge of top-flight football.

For Linden, it was just about giving it a go. He told the squad, a mentality of surviving relegation and you won’t. Going up with the idea of challenging, then staying up is possible.

“If you go up with the idea of competing, then anything can happen,” he continued.

From January to March, they laid the foundations for being competitive. In his words, they are not setting the world on fire but they are holding their own.

“We’re looking into the whites of the eyes of these guys,” he said of their games, “and we’re saying, yeah, we’re as good as you. And you’re going to get a game of football here today.”

With the preseason campaign the talk, Castledawson broke their league down into three-game chunks.

The target was to get four points from the six on offer.

Nine rounds in, they sit on 10 points. There were two sets of three from their first two chunks.

“This week is the first time we’ve achieved four points out of a three-game block,” Linden added. A defeat to Newbridge was followed by wins over Ballinderry and Coleraine.

“It’s the first time we’ve put back-to-back wins together. Now that you know you can win games, you want to try to install a bit of consistency.”

The championship will come into view when the time comes. They’ll be without players on holiday ahead of Monday’s visit of Bellaghy.


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