Tuesday, 4 February 2014
WARRENPOINT Town had arguably the greatest result in their history on Saturday when they went to the Oval on a horrendous day for football and defeated Glentoran, the famed Irish Premier League giants 2-1.
And make no mistake, the Seasiders fully deserved their victory, with the team showing truly amazing character and will-to-win.
But perhaps not a lot of people were aware that the Warrenpoint team was composed totally of players from the Newry and Mourne area. All locals. And that included the two substitutes, Ruairi Devlin and Timmy Grant, plus of course the manager Barry Gray. Granted there were two men on the bench not from the Newry area, Shane Mulgrew and Darren Freeman, but they didn't play. In the starting line-up were three Warrenpoint men, skipper John Boyle, Jonathan Cowan and match-winner Paudie Smith, two Rostrevor men Jonathan and Shaun Parr with the other six, Stephen Moan, Mark Hughes, Stephen McCabe, Liam Bagnall, Mark Hughes and Marty Havern (the man who hit the Town opening goal), all from the Newry area.
And it begs the question; is this the first all-local team to play, and beat, a major footballing side in the top tier of Irish football?
In the seventies Newry Town, under manager Tom McAteer, had an all-local team but they played in the Irish B Division.
The Town played in the Irish League First Division (or in the new Premier League) from 1984 to 2011 but in those 27 years (give or take a few seasons when they were relegated) they didn't play any matches with a full contingent of footballers from the Newry and Mourne area. Indeed at times there were few, in any, in the side.
Yes there was always the talk and clamour down through the years for an all-local team, but it was said by the powers-that-be that players from the Newry area weren't good enough, weren't interested enough or didn't want to play for the Town.
But Warrenpoint's stunning display against the mighty Glens put the first part of that argument to bed - locals are certainly good enough. And their performance at the Oval showed they were mightily interested and everyone wore that blue and white shirt with a fierce pride. So on Saturday all three parts of that age-old argument were proved wrong.
At the Oval the three points gained pushed Warrenpoint out of the relegation zone into ninth place in the Premier table. A few weeks ago the Town were worrying about dropping out of the big league but after some impressive displays, especially again three of the top sides in the division, Crusaders, Linfield and Glentoran, the focus has shifted to from relegation to perhaps eyeing a place a lot further up the table - not too bad for a group of inexperienced local lads!
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