Town manager sees light at end of tunnel
THE opening of Drogheda Town's new clubhouse in the coming months has raised spirits around Marian Park and there's renewed optimism heading into the new Leinster Senior League season.
It's all a far cry from a few months ago when Pete Brennan's charges avoided relegation to Division 1A by a goal difference of two on the final day of the 2012/13 campaign, having not won any of their last 10 games.
Battling relegation seems to have become the norm for Town in recent years, but Brennan - who is entering his third year in sole charge, having done the job jointly with Alan Kelly for two seasons before that - feels more positive this time around.
First up is a home fixture against Newtown Rangers which yesterday was confirmed for Hunky Dorys Park this Friday at 7.45pm because of the ongoing work at Town's home venue.
Brennan feels his side can make a promising start.
'Pre-season is going well, there's good numbers at training and a good team spirit and a lot of young players are coming through from last year's Under-18s who are good enough to push some of the senior players,' Brennan reported.
'And players who were on the fringe last year are looking a little bit stronger because of the young fellas that have come in.'
Brian Carter and Jane McKeown have been charged with working on the squad's diet and fitness in pre-season, and that too is a positive development as Town didn't possess such resources 12 months ago.
Brennan and his assistant Kieran McDonnell have worked hard to strengthen the squad during the off season, and in have come some familiar names such as William Woods, Padraig McDonagh, Paddy O'Boyle, Bryan Smith, Keith Boyle and Danny Moriarty, the latter having played at Senior Division level with both Malahide United and Glebe North.
Players who were around last year - the likes of Chris McDonnell, James Traynor, Andy Hickey and Conor Kelly - have been looking sharp and youngsters such as Barry McKenna, Jamie Murray, Stevie Martin and Emmet Rice will be hoping to make the breakthrough into the starting line-up.
A few players have moved on - the likes of Jason Lowney who has retired owing to work commitments, Keith Arnold and Aaron Comerford, while there will be no Martin Smith this season after he broke his leg during a recent Summer League match.
Nevertheless, Brennan feels he has a squad capable of making a push in the right direction.
'We've been in transition really for two years, but I feel some of the younger lads are coming into their own and the squad is going to gell.
'We were finding it tough and the character wasn't strong enough in a few, but now we have competition in every position, the atmosphere in the squad is very good and I feel positive that we can achieve something this year.
'The darker days are behind us.'
The long-awaited refurbishment of the clubhouse is gathering pace - although Town are reluctant to give a definite timeframe for its completion - and Brennan added: 'That will be a massive boost.
'Last year we were getting changed in the Wolfe Tones or St Nicholas and there was basically a building site going on behind us.
'It seems like an excuse, but now we can feel more like a familly-oriented club and it will lift the supporters as well.'