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KEARNEY: I'LL PUT THIS CLUB BACK ON MAP; DAILY MIRROR AMATEUR LEAGUE GEARS UP FOR WHAT COULD BE AN ENTHRALLING SEASON By MAXIE SWAIN New boss in Downpatrick pledge.

NEW Downpatrick boss Leo Kearney has vowed to "put this club back on the map" after taking the reins of the troubled Rosconnor side over the summer.

The former Premier Division champions have suffered a dramatic fall from grace in recent seasons following their maiden top flight title back in 2008.

Amateur League veteran Bobby Murphy was parachuted in to rescue the club from the abyss last March as Downpatrick stared down the barrel of relegation.

And only a brilliant sequence of results coupled with Abbey Villa's home defeat on the final day of the season saved the club from the drop into Division 1A.

Yet newly-appointed Kearney is optimistic the club can recapture their old aura and establish themselves once again as a real force to be reckoned with.

One of the Amateur League's finest defenders, Jim McStravick, has been lured back to the club from his short stint at Dromara while Kearney has also raided former club Ardglass as he looks to add more quality to Downpatrick's squad.

And with a few more additions on the horizon, the Rosconnor chief is relishing Saturday's baptism of fire away to old foes Kilmore Rec.

"It's a new challenge for me and a new challenge for the players as well to try and put Downpatrick back on the map in the Amateur League," said Kearney.

"I hate seeing talent being wasted. I hate seeing talent in a club not being used right so it's up to me to get it sorted and get this club firing again.

"Don't get me wrong, it won't be a quick fix but hopefully the committee will stand by me and give me time to sort it out.

"I was proud of being manager of Ardglass and it's just unfortunate the way things worked out but I'm coming into Downpatrick as a new face even though most of the boys know me personally.

"We've got Jim McStravick back which is a great signing for us, I signed Mark Feenan from Ardglass.

He plays right side of midfield or up front, he's a smashing player. And I signed Gareth Telford. He's in the twilight of his career but he's a brilliant footballer, he plays centre midfield and he's had a very good pre-season.

"Realistically, I think we are looking at mid-table but if I can get some of the players I have in mind in, I do believe we could be fighting for honours this year but I still have to talk to some players to try and get them on board.

"We've a very tough opener, Kilmore, but I can't wait. We've a lot of work to do but we'll get there, we'll get there."

Kearney's heroics down the road at Ardglass no doubt ensured his name was never far from the Downpatrick board's thoughts as they mulled over a successor to Murphy.

In four seasons at Ardglass, Kearney delivered unprecedented success to the St Nicholas-based minnows, guiding them out of junior football with last season's 1B title complementing the league and cup double plundered the year before.

Kearney managed Downpatrick's third string immediately after his playing days came to an end and admits the prospect of returning to take the helm of the firsts was too good to turn down.

"I was with Downpatrick when Downpatrick Celtic and Downshire Hospital amalgamated to make Downpatrick FC," explained Kearney.

"I had just retired from playing and was actually managing their thirds.

"I was there four seasons and won five trophies with them so I enjoyed some really good times there.

"But it's a totally different challenge now.

At the minute, I'm working on trying to get a few more players to come to the club. And I'm trying to sell the club back to a few players who had left. If we can get that sorted out, and if the boys knuckle down and work hard, Downpatrick will hold their own this year."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 9, 2011
Words:656
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