Downshire chief Graeme Davis is relishing this weekend’s Intermediate Cup clash with Crewe United as he pits his youngsters against Eamonn McCarthy’s seasoned side.
The Mid Ulster League outfit are packed with experience, the likes of Dean Youle, Paul McDowell, Darren McNamee, Gary Lavery and Ronan Brannigan all proven Irish League players boasting a clatter of titles, Steel Cups and Border Cups among them.
The Downshire team currently under construction by Davis is youthful by comparison, and still largely finding their way in the Amateur League.
Having lost their way and their competitive edge over recent seasons, the club turned to Davis last April, a clubman through and through who has been associated with the old Coach Road outfit for some 15 years, 10 of those as a player where he won 1C and got promoted from 1B under then manager Ashley Gibson.
Davis’s vision is not just to assemble a team capable of competing again, but also to help build the club up again; to return it to what it once was — a proud, vibrant and attractive place to play football for the best local talent.
Of course these things take time, but he’s prepared to be patient.
“We’re very young and the ability is there, it’s just getting that eagerness and willingness to give it 100 per cent,” explained Davis.
“I think the club had got away from itself a bit, there were no local players, the management wasn’t local and the club was empty, so I just wanted to try and get the club back and get some local support.
“The likes of myself and the second team manager (Derek Holden), he’s a Downshire man, and the seconds are all 18, 19, so in a couple of years’ time, we will have players coming through.
“A lot of the players who weren’t my players and who weren’t local, I still wanted to keep and we did manage to keep them, plus we’ve added a few. It’s a slow process, but the club is willing to be patient, they want it to be done right.
“You know what it can be like in the Amateur League, players hopping from club to club, but we want to build something, bring players in that want to play for the club, because Downshire is a great club, great facilities and with a bit of history behind it.
“So we want players to realise it means something to play for the club and hopefully that reaps rewards on the pitch.
“All we’re missing is a bit more experience, and a bit more commitment.”
This Saturday provides one of the sternest tests of a tough season so far, but Davis takes heart from the way his team have raised their game previously in the cups against Newington and Islandmagee.
“We’re expecting a tough game and at the minute our own form hasn’t been too great and we’re struggling a bit for confidence,” he said.
“But this season, we played Newington in one of the cups and we held our own for much of the game, it was 0-0 at half-time, so games like that — Islandmagee earlier in the season too — we played really well.
“It seems to be when we come up against bigger opposition we’ve raised our game a bit. And this game is a nice distraction with the way the league is going too. It’s a chance to put in a good performance and get our confidence up.”
ROUND THREE FIXTURES: Armagh City v Immaculata, Ballymoney United v Portstewart, Bangor v Comber Rec, Belfast Celtic v Lisburn Distillery, Brantwood v Chimney Corner, Crewe United v Downshire YM, Crumlin Star v Bourneview Mill, East Belfast v Maiden City, Glentoran II v Derriaghy CC, Holywood v Ballymacash Rangers, Larne Olympic v Limavady United, Moneyslane v Bangor Amateurs, Newington v Linfield Swifts, Rathfriland Rangers v Greenisland, St James’ Swifts v Coagh United, Valley Rangers v Ards Rangers.