Ide Hill Football Club begin their voyage into the uncharted waters of non-league football this weekend, the highest they have ever climbed since they were formed in 1923, and the club are approaching the new season with relish following the landmark success of last year.
The Sevenoaks based club enjoyed their most successful season to date in 2019, winning the Kent County Division One title after a pulsating race involving a number of good quality teams. They ultimately clawed their way back to the top of the league in the Spring and never let go from there, powering to the finishing line and ending 4 points ahead of Sydenham Sports. The season was also punctuated with strong cup runs, going to the semi final of the Kent Intermediate Shield before losing out to eventual winners South East, and also losing a tight Sevenoaks Senior Cup Final to local rivals Chipstead, who also pushed them hard in the league.
Manager Paul McDonagh, who guided the team to promotion in his first full season in charge, remembers the league win with fondness “It was a great achievement for the club, I’m so proud of everyone involved. I was also proud to manage the team to this as I started my career at Ide Hill a decade ago.”
They now have the chance to pit their wits at non-league level for the first time in their history, an opportunity that a unified and mature squad have been building together towards for a number of years, pushing the extremely well-run village team towards heights they had previously not thought possible. McDonagh is happy with his squad and is urging the team to step up again when the season starts “The pre-season could have gone better, but I’m sure we will hit the ground running when the games starts. We haven’t lost any players, have a strong squad still together and have added a few good young lads to the mix. They will add to a group who will have more games to deal with through the season.”
The step up means an exciting and frantic increase in games, with the newly promoted club facing five difficult games in the first two weeks, which will quickly set the tone for the season. They have a daunting opening assignment, hosting last year’s runners up Borden Village on Saturday at Ide Hill, before a mouth-watering midweek local derby against Otford on Tuesday evening, following this up with another local clash against Crockenhill on Bank Holiday Saturday. It will be intense from the off and Ide Hill will have to be ready if they are to make an impression on a challenging league. McDonagh is bullish and determined to start the season well “we play so much of our campaign in the first few weeks, we must make a good start. I’m a positive manager and if we do get off on a strong foot, who knows what can happen with our season. I’d like us to be looking at the top half of the league.”
Although the first team usually play in Wrotham, they will be symbolically holding their first ever non-league fixture at the club’s home on Camberwell Lane on Saturday at 2.45pm, a fitting event bearing in mind the gigantic amount of work put in by the club, overseen by Club Secretary Keith McGinn, to renovate the recreational ground and turn it into a footballing hub for the community throughout the age ranges, with McGinn also overseeing many of the promotions that took Ide Hill towards this level. McGinn is rightly proud of the club and sees this weekend as a huge occasion “It is a magnificent achievement for such a small club to achieve this status and I am really pleased that our first ever KCFL Premier game will be at the club’s home. I do hope the local residents come along and show their support for what will be an historic moment for us”.
Ide Hill start their league campaign at home this Saturday 17th August, 2.45pm against Borden Village. The game will be played on Ide Hill Recreational Ground, Camberwell Lane – please come down and support on this big day for the village and the club.