City boss celebrates five fantastic years.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

City boss celebrates five fantastic years. thumbnailNEWRY City AFC players and management celebrate winning the 2013-14 Mid Ulster Intermediate B title at Richill

IT will be five years tomorrow (Wednesday) from when Newry City AFC was officially launched by legend Ollie Ralph.

It took a lot of work just to get to that stage after Newry City FC was wound up and back then current manager Darren Mullen was the driving force to kick-start the resurgence.

In truth though Mullen's journey began three years before then when he started studying for his first coaching course and it is no coincidence that City are in the position they are as the manager approaches his last coaching exam.

Newry City currently sit in second position in the Bluefin Championship and is only seven games away from a potential play-off back to the Premiership, which considering where they are five short years ago, is a tall order to achieve.

"To be honest at that stage it felt like we were at the bottom of Everest," said Mullen.

"We knew we had a massive road ahead of us and that it wasn't going to be easy. Just to get a team on the pitch was an achievement in itself.

"There was always the fear not only from the coaching and management end but what about the fans, what way is this going to go?

"We had seen what happened to Omagh Town [Omagh Town Football and Athletic Club was dissolved in 2005, due to financial problems] and there was no guarantee that it was all going to work out, like it has now.

At the time it was difficult enough to get a team back on the pitch, but once the football started it was great."

Indeed Newry City AFC hit the ground running by winning the 2013-2014 Mid-Ulster Intermediate B League on their first attempt.

"Winning that first League title, was a big statement for us and also a big relief, especially to win it at our first attempt," said Mullen.

"Even looking back, it wasn't as straightforward as people outside the club may think and obviously moving through the ranks we went up to the Intermediate A and for that first year I thought we could have given it a better run than we did at the time.

"We finished fifth and we just weren't good enough.

The good thing about that is that we learned from our mistakes and we knew what sort of players we needed to bring in and where to reinforce and that's what we did.

"Then obviously there was getting Mulley in. Getting Sean McMullen in was a huge factor for us, and he was terrific in terms of scoring goals at Intermediate A level, that was a big plus."

McMullan played for three seasons for Newry City, having signed from Warrenpoint Town, his last appearance was the promotion play-off win over Armagh City last season, but the season before that he rattled in an incredible 35 goals.

"It has been a big journey and even without signalling anybody out. Everybody we had at the club that day at Bourneview [Newry won 0-3 with a Neil Barr hat-trick] have contributed to where the club is now."

Newry's destiny is in their own hands as they have seven more difficult games, including Matthew Tipton's Portadown, which was postponed on Friday.

It is almost within touching distance, having lost only once in their past 19 games and Mullen insists that he and his team won't buckle under the pressure.

"I have been under pressure from the minute I took the job. I don't feel any added pressure at this stage as I was under pressure to get out of Intermediate B, then Intermediate A and maybe less so last year to get into the Championship, because at the end of the day I had to prove myself as a manager," Mullen said.

"I am not coming from having a big Irish League career, so I have had to prove to myself that I was good enough. But I am extremely proud to manage my home club and that is also the case for the players because they are proud to pull on the Newry jersey.

"I and coaching staff have never created an atmosphere of pressure because we want our players to enjoy their football.

"Of course there is certain amount of pressure when fighting at the top end of promotion to the Premiership but I'd rather be second and have an opportunity of going up to the Premiership than playing Intermediate B football.

No disrespect to that level of football but we are at a point now where every game is difficult and the players are enjoying it.

"The more you are tested as a manager and player the better we will be for it and I think we are better as group this season because of that. Only time will tell if we are good enough to go up this year, but we will give it a rattle and we are certainly in the mix.

"We have played terrific football this season, we have beaten every team. And yes we had a bad start to the season but maybe we needed to make that start and learn from it and we have been on a brilliant run ever since and we have given ourselves a great chance with seven games to go.

Seven very difficult games and while it will be tough for us I am sure those teams looking at Newry will know they are in for a difficult game."

Much has been made about the off-field issues Newry may face should they win promotion to the Irish Premiership, such as financial, UEFA licence and Mullen needs his coaching A Licence if he is to manage at the top flight.

That is why he is taking his final exam later this month, which will be the culmination of eight years hard study to achieve is top coaching badge and Mullen has been the face of Newry City AFC, meeting and greeting the business community of Newry and surrounding areas.

"I would rather have the problem of being in the Premiership and worrying about the commercial end of it than not being in it," said Mullen.

"Let's get to the Premiership first and then look at the issues that come with it. Of course we have to be financially secure off the pitch and we have people such as Gary Wilson and Declan McParland and others who are working tirelessly to bring money into the club.

"I spoke to the Newry business community during the week, they gave me the opportunity to speak, to explain to people that we would appreciate the help of local businesses to help us grow and create partnerships.

"There has been a lot of work off the pitch as well as on it to prepare for life in the Premiership because that is our ultimate aim. I understand that people may feel we are not ready to go up to simply go straight back down again.

But I am ambitious as a manager and I want to manage in the Premier League, the players want to play in the Premier League and we want to test ourselves the best we can.

There is no point in playing football if you don't want to continuously test yourself and strive to be better."


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