Belfast Telegraph

Warrenpoint planning Swift exit

By Graham Luney

There has been plenty of back-slapping in the small County Down town of Warrenpoint since the football team’s Irish Cup heroics against Cliftonville.

For the proud players and manager Barry Gray it is perhaps time to consider their retirement from the game as it’s unlikely to get any better than this.

After holding the Carling Premiership big guns to a one-all draw 10 days earlier at Milltown, little Warrenpoint Town from Championship Two were expected to be put back in their box in the replay at Solitude.

But the underdogs failed to read the script and inspired by their merry band of supporters, the minnows produced perhaps one of the greatest giant-killing acts in Irish Cup history.

Embarrassment and ecstasy was served up in equal measure when the visitors won a dramatic penalty shoot-out.

After a scoreless 90 minutes and extra-time, Gray’s battlers sniffed a major upset and missed spot-kicks from Chris Scannell, Rory Donnelly and Martin Jones had them in dreamland.

Sean McMullan, Keith Johnson and Gregory Curtis converted from the spot to book a sixth round clash against Dungannon Swifts on February 12 but as far as Gray is concerned, the fairytale story is not over.

“We believe we can reach the quarter-finals of the Irish Cup,” said the 30-year-old who is in his fifth season with Town.

“That is now our target. We never lost belief that we could beat Cliftonville, after weathering an early storm in the first game, and now we believe we can beat Swifts.

“The players have worked extremely hard and we deserve this. But this isn’t the end of our story. If we can beat a top Carling Premiership team then who are we going to be afraid of?

“I know I’m biased but the players have earned this and when I think that six months ago we were involved in the Mid-Ulster League, the club has come a long way and hopefully we can keep moving in the right direction.”

The supporters who travelled to north Belfast will no doubt head to Stangmore Park on February 12 and there is every chance their numbers will swell.

“The boys have been having a few celebratory drinks in the town and we have been overwhelmed by the good wishes of the people,” said Gray, who lives on the outskirts of Warrenpoint.

“A lot of the players had to go to work the morning after the game but that wasn’t going to stop them celebrating.

“The players have been rewarded big style. All the people of Warrenpoint should be proud of what we have achieved. Cliftonville players were also very supportive and respectful, despite their bitter disappointment.”

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