Relegated Wakehurst send out defiant message at annual dinner

Alan Francey presents Andy Laughlin (Leading Goalscorer and Players' Player of Year) and George Young (Player of Year) with their awards at the Wakehurst Fc dinner.

Alan Francey presents Andy Laughlin (Leading Goalscorer and Players' Player of Year) and George Young (Player of Year) with their awards at the Wakehurst Fc dinner.

Wakehurst have vowed to use the disappointment of this season to re-establish themselves as an Irish League club in the near future.

The Ballymena side saw their 14-year tenure in the Irish League come to an end after they were relegated from Championship Two after a miserable campaign.

Wakehurst Strollers prizewinners Roy Colville (Players' Player of Year) and Peter Adams (Player of Year and Leading Goalscorer) receive their awards from Alan Francey at the club's dinner.

Wakehurst Strollers prizewinners Roy Colville (Players' Player of Year) and Peter Adams (Player of Year and Leading Goalscorer) receive their awards from Alan Francey at the club's dinner.

And as they prepare for life in the Ballymena & Provincial League - they also expect to name a new manager this week - the defiant message coming out of the club’s annual end-of-season dinner was that they intend for their absence from the Championship to be a temporary one.

Long-serving defender Douglas Stevenson, who finished the campaign as interim manager, paid tribute to his predecessor Paul Muir and his coaching team for their commitment prior to stepping down in January.

“As strange as it sounds, I did thoroughly enjoy it, because it’s a smashing bunch of lads. Despite everything that was happening, everyone’s commitment was unwavering.

“Relegation should not allow us to slip into despondency because off the pitch, we remain in rude health.

Wakehurst players who attended the club's annual dinner and prize night at Leighinmohr House Hotel.

Wakehurst players who attended the club's annual dinner and prize night at Leighinmohr House Hotel.

“We may no longer be an Irish League club but we are still the only intermediate club within the environs of Ballymena.

“This is a hotbed of junior football but it is a hungry town, full of people who are keen to get on. In a football sense, we can offer them the right opportunity to do that.

“This town has proved it can conquer junior football - we are going to meet that next challenge.

“The club has every intention of fighting hard to get ourselves back to where we think we belong - in the Irish League - by getting a group of boys from Ballymena to represent the town.

Wakehurst Strollers players pictured at the club's annual end-of-season dinner.

Wakehurst Strollers players pictured at the club's annual end-of-season dinner.

“If you want to play intermediate football and test yourself at a higher level, this is the place to do it.

“When things are difficult, you find out about yourself and other people - we found out who the men of substance were and who was going to stick with you when things get tight,” added Stevenson.

“Skipper George Young said: “What happened over this year will build character and it will make every single one of us better players.”

Young was named Player of the Year, while Andy Laughlin scooped the Leading Goalscorer and Players’ Player of the Year accolades.

Peter Adams completed the double of Player of the Year and Top Goalscorer for the club’s reserve team, Wakehurst Strollers, while veteran defender Roy Colville won his team-mates’ vote.