Irvine Amateur Football Club (AFC) manager Keith Graham says the club are aiming to be Premier Division regulars after COVID-19 ended their promotion hopes last season.

It has been a tough year for amateur football with it grinding to a halt for the past year due to COVID-19 with only professional clubs allowed to continue to play on.

Speaking to the Times, Graham said: “Heading towards the first lockdown period we were undefeated in the Ayrshire Amateur Division One and looking strong for getting promoted to the Premier Division.

“The lockdown then hit and … in the end the decision was taken to null and void the season … which in the position we were in we felt a bit hard done by.

“At the end of September and into October we had started back into training and friendlies and we were looking at a reduced season.

“Then that all stopped again with the impending lockdown at the end of the year … and that has carried through to this year where it was clear that no football would be happening.”

Despite the level having been shut down for so long there is hope around the corner with amateur clubs having returned to non-contact training two weeks ago.

Graham says if all goes well with the easing of lockdown restrictions, they should be back playing in Division One come August, adding: “It is a breath of fresh air to be back and albeit we are at reduced numbers now, so we have had to split the team in half.

“The good thing is we are now on track, fingers crossed unless we get another wave, for full contact training from May 5 and friendlies from May 17.

“We are hoping for a longer pre-season with a view to the season starting again as it normally would in August.”

Despite several amateur clubs moving over to the West of Scotland League set-up Graham says his focus remains on amateur football.

“I don’t think joining the West of Scotland league is out of our reach in the future if that is something we wanted to go for but for the time being I would like us to get to the top of the amateur ranks.”