‘Treble eclipsed 1976 Irish Cup win’

Ex-Northern Ireland international Michael Hughes. Photo: Presseye
Ex-Northern Ireland international Michael Hughes. Photo: Presseye

Carrick Rangers chief executive Michael Hughes admits even around Christmas time, he didn’t foresee the team accomplishing the treble achievements which he believes surpasses anything in the club’s 75-year history. And, he admits, it hasn’t quite sunk in with him.

“I know that some people of greater vintage than myself who have been supporting the club for much longer will maybe not share my views, but I feel the trophy treble of last season is greater than even the 1976 Irish Cup triumph,” said the former Northern Ireland international midfielder (inset).

“I really never envisaged this happening in the lead-up to Christmas, because of two factors: the off-field financial restraints and the number of league games we still had to play. Matches in hand are a much different thing to points on the board.

“It was always going to be a tough ask and I recall a meeting where we discussed the situation and winning the Larne game was deemed at that point to be a crucial ingredient in achieving success in the league.

“But everyone accepted from the turn of the year that it was all about working hard, with confidence and positivity, on a weekly basis and that’s exactly what we did.

“I never like to pick out individuals for particular mention, but what the Carrick Rangers team managed to do shows the importance of a quality goalkeeper and a man who can score goals - and we had both. I must pay tribute to an exceptional goalkeeper (Brian Neeson) who saved us time and time again.

“But it was all about a united front, with every single player and all those on the sidelines playing a part in what was a remarkable feat in winning game after game during what was a hectic schedule. I must stress the success was certainly not down to me, it was the players and staff who earned all the deserved acclaim they received.

“It will definitely be nice going into the Premiership again but, strangely enough, I can tell you it hasn’t quite sunk in with me yet. I think it will only be when the fixtures are released and I see when we are playing Linfield, Cliftonville and the rest that I will actually appreciate it all.

“In the meantime, there’s a lot of hard work ahead to get ready for what is an even bigger challenge that last season presented at the outset,” added the former West Ham United player.