AFTER some 30 years of trying, Greenwell Star were finally accepted into the Northern Amateur Football League (NAFL) earlier this week.

The Newtownards club announced the news to their social media followers on Monday evening following the conclusion of a long drawn-out legal appeal process.

They’ve had to be patient, first applying to join the League in the mid-1990s when the late Jimmy Menagh was manager, before another failed attempt back in 2016 under then boss Lee Cathcart.

But now Star – who have won the last three Down Area Winter Football League Premier Division titles – can look forward to an exciting new chapter as they approach 40 years since formation, with the first team set to enter the Amateur League’s Division 2C and their seconds in Division 3F.

“The Amateur League was a big part of our five-year plan, so we’re absolutely over the moon,” said club chairman Steven Irvine.

“In layman’s terms, the basis of the appeal was that other teams had been given an advantage with regards to admissions,” he explained.

“This wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication behind the scenes of our first team manager David Milligan and club secretary Ryan Donaldson. But the hard work is only getting started for us and we want to keep on building.”

Mr Irvine also paid tribute to late club stalwarts Jimmy Menagh, Harry McBratney, Tom Paton, Junior Patton and Julian Creaney and dedicated the achievement to the five men.

Greenwell face a challenging period over the coming weeks and months as they bid to catch up on games with the season already well underway. The move will also see them having to swap their current home at the West Winds Playing Fields for the artificial surface at Londonderry Park due to NAFL requirements around facilities.

In the meantime, Greenwell will look to develop the West Winds base with a view to returning there as soon as possible.

Reacting to the announcement on Facebook, the club commented: “We would like to place on record our thanks to the NAFL Board for agreeing to accept us into their league.

“We believe this move will help us continue to grow as a club and we will look to be every bit as competitive and successful in the NAFL as we have been during our time in the DAWFL.”

They continued: “As most will be aware, it wasn’t an easy process this time around either, but we are pleased that it has finally gone in our favour as we believe it’s long overdue and it’s about time Ards had another club competing in the Amateur League.

“We would also like to thank the DAWFL and their committee for the opportunities they have provided to us over the years. We leave the DAWFL having won the last three Premier Division titles, so at least others will now get the chance to start winning it again!”