Glenmuir's Edgar Bitainis will be key as the Hoey's Lane outfit bid to make a mark on their return to NEFL Division Two. (Pic: Ciarán Culligan)
Glenmuir have lofty ambitions ahead of their first season back in Division Two of the North-East League, with manager Mark Sheils targeting promotion and victory in a cup competition.
The Hoey’s Lane crew closed last year in Division 3B’s top two following a stirring finish to the campaign, which included an 11-match unbeaten run, and that has led The Blues into the new term full of confidence.
Pre-season preparations are set to take shape in the next week, with Sheils and assistant Niall Cunningham to meet with the players, the majority of who have been retained from their promotion-winning effort.
Striker Patrick Nicholson is expected to be the sole departee of note, although Glenmuir anticipate a few new recruits, while Sheils predicts centre-half Daniel Mulligan excelling over the course of the upcoming campaign.
“Our objective is to get promoted and win a cup this year,” Sheils told The Democrat.
“I’m putting head, legs, elbows, the whole lot in this year myself. There’s a big effort being made to get promoted as regards training. We’re having a players’ meeting this week and then we’re officially back.
“We have our full squad back from last year, with one or two additions, but mainly, I wanted to keep the spirit and unity from last year because with a turnover of players, you’re starting from scratch.
“But continuity helps moving into a new season because everybody is on board and knows what the objectives are, and there’s players coming through the club that are able to step up, which is what we wanted.”
There is a general sense that Glenmuir are on the way back. It’s a decade and more since the club’s glory days at the summit of the NEFL and Sheils is one who’d love to see the good times return.
And given their vibrant youth structure, along with the forging of an effective pathway into senior football, the manager can see adult success continuing, with the possibility of a reserve team being entered into the NEFL, along with a side committed to the local Summer League.
“This is a 10-year plan that’s ongoing and we’re now starting to see the fruits,” Sheils added.
“I was club secretary for a long time and 10 years ago we had a meeting - after the last Glenmuir team were winning Premier Division and Tully Cups. When the team folded we decided then that we’d start from grassroots. I took an U18 team about four years ago, and won the league and cup, so this is the fruition of that.
“It’s of huge satisfaction to me personally because I know all the work that I put in 10 years ago to get this far. Along the way, players didn’t stay and went to play other sports, and I’ve no problem with that, but some of them are starting to come back because they can see the good things that are happening. Then you’ve Edgar Bitainis, who’s been with us from he was eight.
“We had Conor Macken and Wayne Conroy in as manager in recent years, which didn’t work out, so we came to the decision that the manager had to come from within. And because I was so heavily involved for those 10 years, I’m it! I know the ins and outs of the club.
“There’s a good buzz about the place and there’s great respect there between manager and players after last year’s great run. There’s just a very positive feeling.”
And that bodes well for the campaign to come.