It looks set to be another exciting Huws Gray Alliance League season with Caernarfon Town and Rhyl amongst the teams chasing promotion to the JD Welsh Premier League.
The two teams played out an exciting 3-3 draw against each other last Saturday and FAW.Cymru spoke with Rhyl manager Niall McGuinness and Caernarfon’s assistant manager Sean Eardley for their thoughts on the challenging season ahead.
“I think it’s a very tough league,” said McGuinness. “It is difficult being a club of our stature coming down to this level because people want to knock us off our perch and so on, but there have been some teams who have really impressed me and I’m really enjoying competing at this level, it’s a different type of challenge to what I’m used to.
“There are four or five teams who are capable of promotion, maybe even more. The pressure is on a bit more than last year, but I’ve got to thrive off it, keep doing my job, and try and get the club where it needs to be.”
Currently unbeaten in the league with one win and four draws to show for their opening five games, the Rhyl manager confessed there are many things that have pleased him from the club’s start to the season.
“I think there are massive positives for us to take from what we’ve done so far at this level, because again we almost started off with a new side this year. We’re developing a system, trying to find the right one for this group of players, but we’re still unbeaten so we’re doing something right.
“There have been a couple of games already where perhaps we should have won, but we’ve got to kick on now and go again because we’ve got the character and ability within this group to be successful.”
There are four or five teams who are capable of promotion, maybe even more.
For Eardley, who joins long-time friend Iwan Williams on the Caernarfon touchline this season, remarked at how seamless the transition into the Cofis’ programme has been and noted just how many sides he thinks are in with a shout of winning the division come April.
“The transition for me has been easy. I walked in through the doors at Caernarfon and everybody gave me a massive, massive welcome,” Eardley told FAW.Cymru. “I’ve been a friend of Iwan’s for a very long time. I’ve played with and against him and been on the same coaching courses.
“With Rhyl and Airbus dropping down, ourselves at Caernarfon, Holywell, Porthmadog, Flint, Guilsfield, the usual suspects, it was always going to be a tough league and I’m really, really enjoying the challenge. Everyone at the club has been absolutely superb with me and I’m loving it here.
“No matter where you go in this league, you’re always in for a very tough game. Rhyl, for example, showed very good character, they battled hard, but there are many other teams who will be up there this season.
“Holyhead have had a great start too, so at the moment it looks like anybody from six or seven teams could put a serious challenge in, but I like that, that’s the challenge I wanted.
“I’ve got nothing but admiration for this group of players, given everything they’ve been through over the last few years.
“Licensing criteria has prevented this team from being promoted a couple of years ago, and a freak season from Prestatyn last season again meant Caernarfon didn’t go up, but it takes a lot of bottle from Iwan and the players to pick each other up and keep going in what is a very tough league and I think what the club has going on here is fantastic."
[Picture courtesy of Rhyl FC]