Miskelly plans return to his Comber Rec roots as part of testimonial year

Portadown goalkeeper David Miskelly at Comber Rec with Phil McDonagh (left, manager) and Sammy Haskins (chairman) before this weekend's testimonial celebration.

Portadown goalkeeper David Miskelly at Comber Rec with Phil McDonagh (left, manager) and Sammy Haskins (chairman) before this weekend's testimonial celebration.

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The short distance between the Miskelly family home and Park Way is an all-too-familiar path but tomorrow’s (Saturday’s) journey will prove of special significance ahead of a landmark meeting between the two key clubs in David’s football career.

Comber Rec and Portadown dominate the story of Miskelly’s career as bookends to a life on the pitch that also includes high points with Dungoyne Boys, Northern Ireland under 21s and, of course, Oldham Athletic.

Early memories of life around Comber Rec include his mother, Linda, taking part in sessions with the running club. However, the main family link is down to his uncle, Dessie Savage – a former Comber Rec player who used to take a young Miskelly to games.

Over the decades, the family connection has extended beyond the bloodlines.

“We live about a 20-minute walk away from the ground and I have started taking my five-year-old, Jacob, down to spend time around the place,” said Miskelly. “He is still pretty young to concentrate on the football but it is a real family club and great place to be around.

“When I started thinking about my testimonial it was just obvious to involve Comber Rec.

“The club has come on such a long way since I started going down to watch my uncle and I remember hanging out in the old tin shed changing rooms.

“Going down on the supporters’ bus to the Steel and Sons Cup final at Seaview in 1991 with my friends was special and probably the first time we woke up on Christmas morning not caring about Santa!

“Comber Rec didn’t really have a youth set-up until I was in my mid-teens so, like a lot of players from the area, I signed for Dungoyne Boys and used to play for them then, later on, for the club in the Downpatrick Youth League.

“I will still an outfield player back then but moved into nets and would line out for Comber Rec reserves in the afternoon after youth games each Saturday morning.

“I ended up as a 15-year-old goalkeeper with the club’s fourths, a side called the Legends with over 40s playing that turned out to be a brilliant learning curve.

“They were competitive and didn’t make any allowances for my age but it was superb and some of my best football memories are connected to those games.

“We won trophies and one cup final that really stands out was in front of around 300 or 400 around this Newtownards council pitch against Greenwell Star.

“We won 1-0 and people would still talk about that game.

“The guys would not stand for any egos but I was much too shy to say much and was probably in awe of some, after growing up watching many of them play before for Comber Rec.

“I was just happy to be playing in the team and those experiences really helped me when I went over to England.”

Miskelly has always returned to Comber Rec across his career downtime.

“I would always come back to the club when possible and watch games or go to social events,” he said. “There is a five-a-side competition which runs over two weeks at the end of the season and is pretty big in the area.

“That is always great and when you walk in people are always keen to chat and ask how everything is going.

“It is the same for any of the guys from here, people like Stephen Craigan and Garth Scates.

“I’ve grown up with guys here and many have generations connected to Comber Rec.

“It should be a great day and I’m grateful for so much support over my career, from everyone with Comber Rec and Portadown.”

Tributes from within Comber Rec have included Sammy Haskins, the current chairman - and former team-mate, highlighting the pride with which everyone connected to Park Way has watched the player’s career.

Manager Phil McDonagh views the weekend fun as “an opportunity for the people of Comber Rec to join with the people of Portadown in showing our appreciation to David”.

The youth tournament will run from 9.30, followed by senior games at 2.30 and 5 o’clock before music.

The entry fees have been set at £5 (main 2.30 match) or £10 (full day).