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Written by: Johnny McNabb 16 Feb 2022
© Ballyclare Comrades FC

Curtis Woods insists he has enjoyed every minute of his six-and-a-half-year stint at Ballyclare Comrades.

The full-back has been an ever-present figure at Dixon Park since making the move to the east Antrim side in August 2015.

At youth level, Woods would excel at Greenisland Boys and Ballymena United before finding his way across the water at Burnley.

“I started off playing at Dungoyne Boys which was a bit of a travel considering I live in Carrickfergus,” he said.

“I was asked down to Greenisland Boys under Stephen Graham and I was there for three years and absolutely loved it.

“At that time, you could only stay there until U16 level, so I made the move to Ballymena United and we won the Harry Cavan Cup that year against Linfield.

“At the age of 17, I earned a two-year scholarship with Burnley who had just been promoted to the Premier League for the first time, so I often done ballboy at matches which was a great experience.

“I had a fantastic two years there and Shay McCartan would have been at the club at that time, although he was a year younger than me.

“I didn’t mind moving away as my family were able to get over as much as they could, but the biggest transition was getting my body used to playing football every day.”

© Jonathan Porter/PressEye Curtis in action during his Ballymena United days

After being released and coming home, Woods would pen a deal with Ballymena United under the eye of Roy Walker.

However, after playing 14 games for the Sky Blues, the defender would leave football to pursue his interest in athletics.

“After leaving England, I had to transition back into not playing football every day and settle into a different way of life by earning a living,” he added.

“Roy Walker was the manager of Ballymena United at the time and I wanted to play football and I didn’t have to travel far, so I thought it made sense to move there.

“Whilst I enjoyed it, I left to pursue other things and I was big into my athletics all through my life so I thought I would give that a try.

“Unfortunately, that didn’t work out for me and I knew I had that burning desire to get back into football.”

© Andrew McCarroll/Pacemaker Press

In January 2015, Woods would link-up with Carrick Rangers but found his game time limited as the Amber Army were battling on three different fronts, before having a short spell at neighbours Larne.

“I spoke with Gary Haveron at Carrick and they were flying at the time so I agreed to sign,” he continued.

“However, they had a settled team, who had been together for a long period of time and it was hard to get into.

“I struggled to get game time but I agreed to wait until the summer to move on but it was still great to be a part of a successful team.

“That summer I was asked by Davy McAlinden to go to Larne for pre-season and I played one game, but we had a falling out and decided to go our separate ways.”

© Brian Little/INPHO Battling for possession with Joel Cooper

With the transfer deadline ticking ever so close in August 2015, Woods would sign for Ballyclare Comrades where he remains to this day.

Not only would Woods find consistency at club level but he would also be called-up for Northern Ireland’s junior international team.

“I think I made the move to Ballyclare on transfer deadline day when Davy Dorrian asked me to join,” he acknowledged.

“Looking back now that was the end of my club hopping!

“Ballyclare is a fantastic club from top to bottom and it has volunteers and people involved who have the best interests of the club and want it to progress.

“It is has been a rollercoaster in terms of my time there as we’ve had some good years and some bad years.

“We had a play-off defeat to Institute which would have given us a chance to compete in the relegation/play-off game against Carrick Rangers which was heartbreaking.

“However, it also helped me experience different things as I was called up by Harry McConkey to represent Northern Ireland’s junior international team in May 2019 as we faced Republic of Ireland, Jersey and England District, which was brilliant.”

Comrades are currently 8th in the Lough41 Championship standings but Woods hopes that he and his team-mates can edge their way into the top half before the league splits.

“It’s been a crazy season and the league is so competitive,” he remarked.

“After a good start, recent results haven’t worked out the way we would have liked them to.

“If we could sneak sixth place and get into the top six that would be great, but if not, we will be wanting to finish in 7th place when the league splits.

“To be honest, our main focus at the minute is just the next game and getting out of a rut.

“As one of the most experienced players in the ranks, you often find young players coming up to you for advice and motivation but I’m only too glad to help when I can.”