KEIGHLEY Albion may have lost their two biggest games of the season, but head coach Josh Ireland has no doubt it has been a successful season for the amateur open age side.

Albion were huge underdogs heading into the Yorkshire Men’s League Cup final in July, and were beaten 40-4 by Newsome Panthers at Featherstone’s Post Office Road, and they were second-best in the Division One play-off final, going down 32-6 against Stanley Rangers at Horsfall on Saturday.

But after jumping up from Division Three less than a year ago, Albion have won far more than they have lost this season, despite the jump in quality of opponents.

And that is likely to mean a Premier Division berth for them next season.

Ireland said: “Considering we were a Division Three side at the start of the year, we’ve ended up in two finals and won our division.

“Regardless of the results in those finals, that’s impressive.

“It was a big jump for us and yet we finished on top of our division, so while we were disappointed to lose to Stanley, it’s been a successful year.”

Asked why they fell short against Stanley in the showpiece, Ireland reflected: “It’s going to sound silly, but in two years here, we’ve not really played in the rain.

“It’s drizzled the odd time, but we’ve not had those conditions we had on Saturday.

“Stanley just did the basics better than us and we couldn’t get to grips with needing to change our style to suit the conditions.

“The astroturf at Horsfall is a lot faster surface than we’re used to as well and that made a difference.

“But you’ve got to do a lot of hard yards just to make those finals.

“You have to work so hard to get there to get those deserved days out.”

And Keighley look set to earn the rewards for their fine 2023 season next year.

Keighley News: Keighley Albion scoring a try in victory over Hull Wyke earlier this season.Keighley Albion scoring a try in victory over Hull Wyke earlier this season. (Image: JT Sports Media.)

Ireland said: “We’ll be focusing on the Premier Division now.

“If we said we didn’t want to go up as a club, we wouldn’t really have a leg to stand on, given we got to two finals and won our division.

“The league will be pushing for us to go up and we’ve got a good young squad going forward, with no-one retiring or leaving.

“We’ll be looking to recruit one or two semi-pros or ex-pros because the average age of our squad is only about 24 or 25, and we need some extra experience.”

Ireland will be along for the ride in 2024 too, saying: “I’ve got a three-year deal with the club, so 2024 is my third and final year on the current deal.

“Thereafter, there’s scope for renewal and making sure we have everything in place for years to come.”

Asked whether the higher-level National Conference League could be part of Albion’s future, Ireland said: “We’ve got to sustain our position in the Premier Division if we go up there first.

“If we can show we compete at that top level, the NCL would be the ultimate goal for the club.”