By way of evidence to chart Annagh United’s progress, a story told by Alan Flavelle offers a sense of context.
“Years ago we would be playing someone like Ahorey at the old Meadow Lane pitch on the first day of the season, now on Saturday it is going to be Armagh City in the second level of Irish League football,” said Flavelle. “People maybe do not always appreciate just how far this club has come.”
Flavelle falls into the category of club stalwart, a permanent fixture on and off the pitch down the decades who offers commitment beyond any official title on the books.
Annagh’s final pre-season friendly in preparation for a first appearance in NIFL Championship One tomorrow (Saturday) offered numerous examples of his contribution to the cause.
Flavelle and his trusted biscuit tin met supporters from the host club and Portadown at the turnstiles. A scheduled post-match interview was put on hold as he checked for any footballs lost in the fields and marshland outside the Tandragee Road boundary.
He then had to collect the corner flags and other assorted paraphernalia before sitting down to look back on Annagh’s progress.
Naturally, Flavelle’s recollections include passing on a large portion of responsibility for any development to the shoulders of others.
“Noel Walker is our club secretary but puts so much into other areas around the club,” said Flavelle. “Raymond Smith is another who does a lot and we have a small group of hard-working people.
“Brian McGurgan, our club chairman, has been a wonderful supporter in so many ways.
“Roy McMahon was officially at Saturday’s match as Portadown chairman but has strong links to the Annagh from his days as a player and is a big supporter.
“I can recall, as a player, having to throw in a pound each so we could get a dugout for down at Meadow Lane.
“We spent a bit of time at Kernan before moving to Tandragee Road about 30 years ago.
“We have had some wonderful times and cracking players but anything achieved has been down to working together.
“We will need that attitude this season, especially during any tough times.
“It was a big jump for us to decide to go out of the Mid-Ulster Football League in the 1990s.
“We had to overcome a few struggles but felt the facilities were in place to push on.
“To now be ready for Championship One is a great achievement and it is going to be a big one on and off the field.”
Flavelle and the Annagh committee have had to raise the entry fees this season by a pound per person to £6 for adults or £3 concession rate. However, Annagh remain determined to maintain the family feel.
“We have been able to secure sponsorship signs from about 20 firms due to friendships and links around the community,” said Flavelle. “Everything will help and some of the visiting teams should bring a few more fans into the ground than maybe Championship Two.
“We want to try and get a sponsor for every home match and every bit helps.
“The 3G pitch is booked for the majority of the time and we have some slots open which can be arranged with a phone call to Ciaran McGurgan on 07729284096.
“Last season was a great reward for the hard work put in by everyone and the enthusiasm from reaching cup finals and getting promoted helps keep us all going.
“It is certainly going to be exciting for us all around the club.”
AUGUST: 08 - Armagh City (h); 15 - Institute (a); 22 - Donegal Celtic (a).
SEPTEMBER: 05 - Ards (h); 19 - Loughgall (h).
OCTOBER: 03 - H&W Welders (a); 10 - Bangor (h); 17 - Lisburn Dist (a); 24 - Larne (a).
NOVEMBER: 07 - Knockbreda (h); 14 - Dergview (a); 28 - Ballyclare Coms (h).
DECEMBER: 19 - Lurgan Celtic (h).
JANUARY: 01 - Armagh City (a); 16 - Dergview (h); 30 - Bangor (a).
FEBRUARY: 06 - Ards (a); 20 - Lisburn Dist (h); 27 - Larne (h).
MARCH: 12 - Ballyclare Com (a); 19 - H&W Welders (h); 26 - Lurgan Celtic (h).
APRIL: 02 - Institute (h); 16 - Knockbreda (a); 23 - Loughgall (a); 30 - Donegal Celtic (h).