Newtongrange Star defender Dale O’Hara quit the Lowland League for the Juniors last season and hasn’t looked back, but reckons a mass exodus of Juniors clubs to the Pyramid system would only boost the semi-professional game.
O’Hara was at Whitehill Welfare last term and jumped at the chance to sign up at New Victoria Park after becoming tired of the division.
With results of an SJFA survey this week revealing more than half of Junior clubs would favour their association coming under the banner of the Pyramid system, O’Hara believes such a move would raise the profile of the East of Scotland and Lowland League.
“It’s my first year in the Juniors and I enjoy it a lot more than the Lowland League to be fair,” said O’Hara.
“The type of football is better, every game is a close game; it’s not like you’re winning easy. You get better crowds. When we played Bonnyrigg in the Scottish Cup there was like 1,100 people, it was good.
“I think it would be a good thing for Junior clubs to move because you can just win the Junior league at the moment. At least you could win the East of Scotland league then go into the Lowland League and try to get to League Two if you’re a good enough team, so there’s an incentive there to get up to the professional leagues.
“It would improve the set-up. After a couple of seasons, if Kelty win the league this season and if Bonnyrigg go in and win the league, you’d be getting rid of the poorer [EoS] teams and the league would be a lot better for it.
“The biggest game you’ll get at the moment is maybe Whitehill against Spartans and you’ll probably get 100 people; there’s not a lot of fans, so maybe teams like Bonnyrigg who have got big supports will help the league.”
Star’s opponents tomorrow, Bonnyrigg, initiated their plans to quit the Juniors last week, and Tranent Juniors are the latest club to signal their intent to make the switch with an EGM called for Sunday, April 8 to discuss the possibility of joining the East of Scotland league.
O’Hara is hopeful of being fit for tomorrow’s Super League clash at the home of their closest rivals and current league leaders after sustaining a hamstring injury in their 2-0 defeat at home to Broughty Athletic last weekend.
The left-back scored twice – two free kicks – on Star’s last visit to New Dundas Park as Rose ran out 5-2 winners in the Scottish Junior Cup back in January.
The 24-year-old former Hearts youth, who emerged from the same youth crop as Jamie Walker and Jason Holt, is enjoying his finest scoring season to date having hit the net 17 times. He sits top of the club’s goalscoring charts.
“It’s the best scoring period of my whole career,” continued O’Hara. “I’ve not always been known for my free-kicks, I’ve had an absolute nightmare of a couple of seasons. The first two I scored were against Bonnyrigg and then I scored one a game for about three weeks in a row.
“We’ve got a few injured and a few away as well, so tomorrow is going to be tough. It’s not a game we’re expected to get too much out of. I think we’ll need to score first to have a chance.
“I don’t like being injured and missing games. It’s not ideal but if I have to start and come off it’s better than going on and then coming off.
“We’re a good enough team, we’re getting there. We’ve still got to play a lot of teams around us so I think that’s good for us.
“We’ve played all the top teams, so all the games coming up are vital; they are massive.”