Sports

Newry raring to go

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

NEWRY City AFC manager Darren Mullen feels his team are prepared for what will be their biggest test since the club reformed.

City kick-off their season away to Lurgan Celtic on Saturday (August 12) at 3pm and Mullen wants his players to hit the ground running.

But Mullen has warned against talk of back-to-back promotions, even though he makes no secret that his ambition is to guide Newry back to the top flight of Irish League football.

Players such as John Boyle, Darren King, brothers Mark and Stephen Hughes, Keith Johnston, Marcus McKeown and Paddy Mooney all have Irish Premiership as well as Championship experience, so combined with players such as City stalwarts Jimmy Walker, Decky Carville and Tucker McCabe and recent signings of the talented duo Caolan Gray and Ruairi Cunningham, expectations are reasonably high of another successful season.

Of course, how one judges success is relative, as consolidation would be deemed as good enough by many, while others want to be challenging for silverware towards the end of the season.

For Mullen, he simply wants his team to find their feet before they can run and he won't panic if the result doesn't go their way in Lurgan.

"I wouldn't say we would panic if we don't [win] but it is important that we get off to a good start," said Mullen.

"If we have a good start to our season it will certainly help but our season won't be defined on our first few games of the season and there'll be no sign of panic.

"It is going to be a difficult league and throughout the season teams may beat us, but it is important we get our confidence up early and hopefully get a few points on board so we can prove that we are well fit to be in this League.

"We know what is ahead of us and that it is going to be difficult and we are prepared for that. It is great when we are winning but we need to show a bit of character when things don't go so good and we will certainly be tested this season.

"There is no-one within the squad or coaching staff that isn't aware just how tough this season will be. There are a lot of players who have played in this league before and I played with Armagh City in this League over 20 years ago and it hasn't changed much.

"It is physical and you need to be fit and we also need to have a bit of luck along with it. But I think we have a good enough squad to compete in this league.

"We are certainly not talking about back-to-back promotions, we just want the League to get going so we can play a few games and see where that takes us.

"Since we have reformed we have never really looked too far ahead but what we have done is work hard and we have got our rewards for that hard work.

"This year is going to be our toughest year obviously as there are 11 other teams who feel that they can progress up to the Premiership, we just need to keep ourselves in the mix, as we don't want to get off to a bad start and leave ourselves behind.

"We are looking forward to it as a club both on and off the pitch and we are looking forward to it. It is where we want to be. I'd rather be playing the teams we played in pre-season on a more regular basis in the Premiership but the only way we can achieve that is that if we keep working hard on the pitch and that is something certainly we are doing." Mullen insisted on a difficult pre-season and he feels that those games should have his team properly prepared for the season ahead.

Newry lost 6-0 to both Barry Gray's Cliftonville and David Healy's Linfield, while they were also beat 3-1 by Glenavon.

Mullen's men also drew (1-1) against Matthew Tipton's Warrenpoint Town and 2-2 away to Dublin's Cherry Orchard but enjoyed a 1-0 victory against Hanover at the Showgrounds. But the City boss was and still isn't concerned about the results.

"People from outside the club might look at the pre-season results and think that it hasn't gone to plan but to me it has," said Mullen.

"Of course, results weren't great as no-one likes getting beaten 6-0 but the whole point of pre-season was to make sure it was as tough as possible and we are not going to get it any tougher in our Division than Linfield or Cliftonville.

"It was a means to an end and a very tough pre-season and the lads are a lot better for it." Jake Redpath has returned to Dollingstown, Ian Curran will miss much of the season with a cruciate injury and Jordan King and Neill Mullen aren't available for the Lurgan Celtic clash, leaving Mullen with a selection headache ahead of Newry's first game.

"There is still a few places up for grabs but we are still a lot closer than we were at the start of pre-season," Mullen said.

"The new and existing players have been brilliant so far as they have worked really hard and I think they are ready for the start of the season.

"It will take everybody a few games to get into their stride, whether that being new players or existing players, because you are into competitive fixtures, which will be different from our friendly games.

"We brought match intensity against Warrenpoint and Portmarnock as we don't want to be caught cold against Lurgan Celtic. Pre-season has been good to us but nothing compares to competitive football and once that first whistle blows in Lurgan then we will have an entirely different focus." There will be a return to Friday night football at the Showgrounds as Newry hope to build on the festival atmosphere and the growing number of fans they finished with last season.

"The Friday games will suit many of our fans. It is important that we have a big fan base and since we reformed it has been great," Mullen said.

"We have taken more fans to games than what the home side would have over the past few seasons and even last season attendances started to swell, I suppose when things are going well people want to see you and hopefully that continues this season.

"Friday night games have worked well for us, so hopefully that continues, sometimes when you are not playing so well you need your support to help us and to try and lift a player and they have been great so far and long may it continue."


Newry City Signings & Departures


In: Stephen Maguire, Darren King, Ruairi Cunningham, Caolan Gray, Stephen Hughes, Nathan Murphy.


Out: Sean McMullan and Peter Murphy to Windmill - Jake Radpath has gone back to Dollingstown.

Fixtures


Saturday (August 12) at 3pm
Lurgan Celtic v Newry City


Saturday, August 19, at 3pm
Newry City v PSNI


Friday, August 24, at 7.45pm
Newry City v Loughgall


Saturday, September 2, at 3pm
Ballyclare Comrades v Newry City


Friday, September 8, at 7.45pm
Newry City v Portadown


Saturday, September 16 at 3pm
H&W Welders v Newry City


Friday, September 29, at 7.45pm
Newry City v Larne


Saturday, October 7, at 3pm
Limavady United v Newry City


Saturday, October 14, at 3pm
Dergview v Newry City


Saturday, October 21, at 3pm
Newry City v Knockbreda


Saturday, October 28, at 3pm
Portadown v Newry City


Saturday, November 4, at 2pm
Newry City v H&W Welders


Saturday, November 11, at 2pm
Loughgall v Newry City


Saturday November 18, at 2pm
Newry City v Ballyclare Comrades


Saturday, November 25, at 2pm
Newry City v Limavady United


Saturday, December 9, at 2pm
Knockbreda v Newry City


Saturday, December 16, at 2pm
PSNI v Newry City


Tuesday, December 26, at 2pm
Newry City v Lurgan Celtic


Saturday, December 30, at 2pm
Larne v Newry City


Saturday, January 13, at 2pm
Newry City v Dergview


Saturday, January 20, at 2pm
Institute v Newry City.


The league then splits, with the remainder of Newry City league fixtures to be known later this season.

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