Smith joins Loughgall

Dean Smith (left) - pictured with Darragh Peden following a Loughgall trophy triumph in his playing days - is back at Lakeview Park as interim manager. Pic by Pacemaker.
Dean Smith (left) - pictured with Darragh Peden following a Loughgall trophy triumph in his playing days - is back at Lakeview Park as interim manager. Pic by Pacemaker.

Two points divide Dean Smith’s current and former clubs in the league table - but the Loughgall interim boss considers the trophy tradition associated with Lakeview Park at the heart of his midweek switch.

Smith took his first training session in Loughgall blue this week after around four years with hometown club, Annagh United.

The former Irish League striker was, of course, back in familiar territory having enjoyed a central role within some of Loughgall’s most successful squads as a player.

And it is the opportunity to return Loughgall’s status as one of the most successful clubs outside the top flight that cemented the move once Steven Hawe stepped down on Monday.

Hawe and Stephen Uprichard notified Loughgall officials of the decision to leave the Lakeview Park management team at the start of the week - with the committee turning to Smith within hours as a replacement.

“Loughgall is a club of great tradition, with excellent facilities and a wonderful history of success and support for the manager,” said Smith. “I was lucky enough to be part of some great Loughgall squads and I’m now buzzing to get started on helping the club climb up the league table.

“That is the short-term priority and I look around the squad and see a group of players as good as anything in this division.

“I know both Steven Hawe and Stephen Uprichard on a personal level, going back to my playing days at Glenavon, Armagh City and Coagh United.

“I know how much work they put in towards signing players and getting together a talented squad, so now it is up to me to try and achieve greater consistency.

“This club has a loyal fanbase and excellent committee, with Premiership-standard facilities.

“The mood was upbeat in training this week and we made it clear we are not here to simply make up the numbers.

“There will, of course, be a period of transition but there is no question we have the quality at the club to achieve the goal of climbing the table.”

Andy Smith, another former Loughgall player, has also made the move from Annagh to join as assistant manager, with Nicky Maye the first-team coach.

An additional element to Smith’s first matchday in the Loughgall dug-out has been provided by a weekend derby date against former club Annagh United.

“It is just a situation in which we have to be professional and focus on the job,” said Smith. “I enjoyed great times at Annagh, including claiming some senior scalps and reaching cup finals.

“But I consider my greatest achievement getting the club promoted out of Championship 2 on limited resources.

“Any success was only down to the support and hard work of everyone, from the players to the committee and people who really keep the club going like Alan Flavelle and Noel Walker.

“I achieved success as a player at some great teams and am proud to have this chance at Loughgall to help push the club forward as manager.”

A club statement on the Loughgall website made reference to Smith’s “interim appointment as first-team manager” and that “as per licensing requirements, a permanent appointment will be made within 60 days”.

It is understood that confirmation of Smith’s UEFA B Licence qualification will arrive across the next few weeks.

Kick-off will be 2 o’clock at Lakeview Park.