Newry City AFC manager Darren Mullen is determined that his team put the unfamiliar pain of recent defeat behind them, and use it as motivation in their bid for promotion to Mid Ulster Intermediate A.
The men from the Showgrounds are enjoying an impressive return to football after the best part of a year away, following their winding up and subsequent withdrawal from the Northern Ireland Football League over financial difficulties in September 2012.
Level on points with St Mary’s at the top of Intermediate B but with three games in hand, City look to be fulfilling the predictions of many who predicted this may be a comfortable season for the newly reborn side.
However, Newry haven’t had it all their own way, as last weekend’s Marshall Cup third round defeat to fellow Intermediate B side Hanover demonstrated.
And Mullen certainly isn’t in the mood for mid-term reflections. His true assessment will only come once the club have crossed the finish line in May.
He said: “We have to remember that this time last year, we had no players… just to even bring football back to the Showgrounds again was a major achievement. But if we don’t get promoted this year, I’ll take that as us falling short of our targets.
“People said we would walk the league this year, but I never bought into that. The three new sides – ourselves, Dungannon Tigers and St Mary’s – have ourselves have all added to the league, and that’s reflected in the fact that we are all in the top five at the minute.
“It is a tough enough league, and nobody is going to run away with it.”
There are no prizes for correctly guessing that Mullen’s chief concern is with the club’s final standing in the league, but he has been disappointed with their overall performance in the knockout competitions.
The Irish Cup gave plenty of hope with victories over established Amateur League clubs Dunmurry Rec and Downpatrick on the way to their eventual fourth round dismissal by a Crumlin Star side that more than held their own against Crusaders in the next stage.
But it was when they featured in the cup competitions that Mullen felt his team ultimately came up short. A Mid Ulster Cup first round defeat by Rathfriland Rangers, and losses to Hanover in both the Marshall and Bob Radcliffe Cups have hit hardest.
Those defeats should have made Hanover public enemy number one when they face them again in the league cup next month. Yet, don’t expect them to be any more up for that game than any other this season.
The Newry boss stated: “That will be five times we will have played them this season… I know their player/manager Stephen Hyndes from our playing days, and to be honest, we will both be sick of the sight of each other.
“Of course the players will want to win, but they will want to do well in every game. We have strong competition in all positions, and those players will want to keep their place in the team – I will be picking them on merit.
“Every game now has the possibility to be a crucial one in our chances of winning silverware this season, so none are more important than the others.”
The gaffer is also simply relishing his team getting into regular action again after an extended lay-off, for one reason or another, between December 14 and January 18.
He added: “People talk about a break being good for players, but to me, a break is two weeks, not four.
“We kept training, but everyone knows there is no substitute for actual match fitness, and the players get impatient and stale. We were a bit rusty, but as I said to the players, that is the last excuse.
“We are right in the mix, and we are going to give this a really good go.”