Beith stalwart Ryan Docherty has agreed to join Benburb in a dual player/coach role after revealing he would be leaving the Ayrshire club seven weeks away from the new WoSFL season getting underway.

His 'all or nothing' playing style has established Docco as a firm favourite of Bellsdale Park supporters and gained him recognition as a Mighty defensive cornerstone ever since arriving from Queens Park in 2017. However, he feels this is the “now or never” time to be moving on.

And while admitting his ever increasing work commitments - the fully-accredited UEFA coach runs the highly successful On The Ball Academy for up and coming kids in the North side of Glasgow - have undoubtedly contributed to his shock departure, Docco insists he was blown away by initial talks with Bens boss Paul Lovering.

Last night the one time Dundee United signing revealed: “Hand on heart, I have to say that  walking away from Beith was by far and away the most difficult decision I’ve ever made in my football career.

“It’s a wonderful club run by fantastic people behind the scenes and I could never have imagined me heading out the door at my own behest but for a combination of factors, not least of all my work with the academy youngsters.

“More and more of my time is taken up in this respect and I didn’t want to short change the manager Bryan Young or anyone else at the club by giving less than 100 per cent commitment because of this change in my circumstances.

“The travelling involved in heading down to Beith on average three times per week was bound to interfere with my academy work so having arrived at the decision that a Glasgow based club would suit me better, I put out feelers to see if there would be any signing interest.

“Thankfully there was and Benburb, another Premier Division side just five minutes from where I stay in Glasgow, ticked all the boxes so I met up with Lovers, whose passion and positivity for his club were impressive to say the least. I left our meeting sold on the idea of being part of his future plans.

”The option of moving elsewhere for greater financial reward was on the table as a result of approaches from another couple of clubs but the Bens deal felt right for me.”

Losing someone of Docco’s stature in the game is sure to come as a damaging blow to Beith but officials made the best of glossing over his departure with a short statement that read: “Experienced defender Ryan Docherty has been released from his contract which was due to expire later this month to allow him to sign for another club and feature in their Pre-Season plans.

"All at the club thank Ryan for all his efforts at the Mighty and wish him well at his new club and for the future."

Docco, whose previous Junior clubs include Rutherglen Glencairn and Lanark United, is understandably excited about taking his first tentative steps into a backroom team role at the Govan outfit and is confident his coaching background can help in this respect .

He added: “It’s only natural when you get to the latter stages of your playing career for thoughts to turn towards management or coaching but I’m not quite ready to make the step up just yet .

“Yes, I’ll be there to take training drills when needed and to put in my tuppence worth on matchdays if required but my primary focus is on helping out on the pitch and there’s no doubt moving to Benburb has put a bit of fire in my belly for some playing action.

“Lovers has fully outlined his pre-season training plans, which get underway with a first training session on Monday night, and I’m looking forward to meeting up with my new team-mates."

It’s thought there could be as many as five newcomers coming through the New Tinto Park gates but up to now, the only confirmed new face (other than Docco) is that of the former Cumbernauld United and Rossvale full-back David Leadbetter.

Another eye-catching Guys Meadow departure is that of seasoned striker Colin McMenamin, heading back into the Senior ranks with Annan United after being appointed as assistant manager to Peter Murphy. One also hears Irvine Meadow have boosted their midfield options with the acquisition of Kyle Faulds from Cumnock.

Meanwhile, the latest relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions has resulted in a healthy array of pre-season friendly matches today, most notably through at the Springburn Park Festival of Football where no fewer than three games are scheduled to take place: Rossvale v St Anthony's (10am), St Roch's v Rob Roy (12 noon) and Ashfield v Maryhill (2pm).

Cumnock play in front of their own fans for the first time in over a year when hosting the visit of Lanark United, while Neilston are up against WoSFL newbies Glenvale at the Brig O’Lea.

PLAYING TODAY (Kick-offs 2pm unless stated)

Rossvale v St Anthony's (Springburn Park, 10am), St Roch's v  Rob Roy (Springburn Park, 12 noon), Lesmahagow v Larkhall Thistle (Dalziel Rugby Club), Kello Rovers v Auchinleck Talbot, Maryhill v Ashfield (Springburn Park), Kilbirnie Ladeside v Craigmark, Thorniewood Utd v Shotts Bon Accord, Darvel v Strathclyde University (Lochinch Playing Fields), Royal Albert v Carluke Rovers, Neilston v Glenvale, Ardeer Thistle v AS Airdrie Amateurs, Lugar Boswell v Auchinleck Under 20s, Bellshill Athletic v Newmains Utd, Ardrossan Winton Rovers v Muirkirk, Cumnock v Lanark Utd, Forth Wanderers v Albion Rovers Under 20s.