Solent Stars - The Drop to Division 4

by Mick Byrne

Here, Mick Byrne recounts how a decision taken in February managed to keep the club on the national scene in the next season which began in September 1990.

"Luckily I had entered a second team in the 4th Division, a regional League. We had our first game on the side court at Fleming Park and played what is now the Swindon Division 2 team. We won by about a hundred to 30 and set the scene for the new season. We had Nic Burns and Paul Philp playing on a non-regular basis and Roy Lewis coming along for home games. We lost to Oxford away and didn't lose another game. Even in that game we came back from a huge deficit at half time to lose by 1 or 2 points - with Paul Philp scoring one of our set plays from a move from our end line with seconds to go.

The season progressed and Martin Dowdall, Mark Scott and Alex Byrne all qualified as Level 2 coaches at a course I ran in Whitney in Oxfordshire.

We kept our National Cup spot and the first game was against Chiltern, from Division 2, at Fleming Park. We decided to hire the whole court, thanks to a sponsorship from Tonrin, and we beat them by 40 plus points, in front of over 400. We had survived a serious club and marched on.

Next we played the mighty Carlsberg League Leicester Riders and we gave them a big shock. They took off their best players after building up a biggish lead and we staged a big fight back and closed the game to 7 points. They brought the big boys back on and they couldn't find their rhythm. We ran them ragged and just lost, we enjoyed ourselves it was great fun.

We progressed through to the Division 4 Playoffs and went to Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire beating all the other Division 4 winners and finding our way back into the National League the new Division 3.

The team that won that tournament include Paul Philp, Roy Lewis, Nic Burns, Martin Dowdall, Jason Colgan, Paul Philp Joe Morant and Rob Bonnick, who we discovered playing for the Institute.

We went to take the Founders Cup winning a two-legged final with Liverpool. I can remember trying to keep the score close for the second leg at home. But Lewis insisted that we did the job in Liverpool and we took a 24-point lead to Fleming Park. 750 turned up to watch us it was heady stuff for the local youngsters. We had a tremendous team spirit,

I still have a picture of me holding all 3 trophies. I felt really good that day.

It was during this time that a promising young player called Mark Jackson made his debut for the club and that was what we were all about.

Over the years it is gratifying to think that the club has survived because the local youngsters who have been the backbone of the club."

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