Paul Kirk last night admitted he was “hurt and devastated” after learning of his dismissal as Lisburn Distillery manager.
Kirk was told by the Board at Ballyskeagh that a failure to win a trophy in his 14-year spell as manager of the Whites was the reason for his sacking.
One of the game’s most colourful and experienced characters, his departure from the club has stunned players as well as anyone else who follows domestic football.
Kirk said he gave his “life and soul” to the club for 14 years and when he recovers from this “bolt from the blue” he hopes to return to football management.
“I suppose the axe falls on everyone but I am hurt and shocked by this,” he admitted.
“I had been preparing the players for a European game — the fourth successive year we had qualified for Europe — but now the most hurtful thing is that I will not be able to work with those players again, players I have brought into Irish League football and watched improve.
“How many trophies has Lisburn Distillery won in the last 40 years? Success is relative and I felt we were building a team which was definitely capable of winning a trophy. I was developing young players within a strict budget and there was still good competition for places at the club.
“I have given a lot of time and effort to the club and this is how I have been rewarded. I was groundsman for two years as well as manager — I painted the changing rooms with not a penny coming my way.
“I have a good relationship with the club’s vice-chairman Tommy Anderson who is a personal friend but now the Board and chairman Jim McGrory have decided to tear things apart. I wish the club all the best and I hope they are successful in the future but I’m shocked and angry at being sacked. I had no inkling of it happening. The Board asked to meet me (last night) and told me they were sacking me.”
Kirk’s contract at the Whites was due to expire at the end of the 2010/2011 season and he will now expect the club to award him compensation.
“I was really a full-time manager at the club,” he added. “I don’t
want any more grief to happen but of course I have bills to play. I have fought tooth and nail for the club but now I will have to seek a fresh challenge. I felt I was taking the club in the right direction but clearly the Board felt otherwise.”
Whites goalkeeper Philip Matthews admitted he was stunned by the news.
“We were all focused and getting ready for our European game,” he said.
“It’s come as a complete shock to the players. Paul had been manager for such a long time so it’s a bolt out of the blue.”