Mullen and Co keep feet firmly on the ground as Newry continue to rise
Newry City AFC may well be flying high at the top of Mid Ulster Intermediate A with an unbeaten record in their eight league games so far, but you will not find an ounce of complacency at the Showgrounds.
That’s largely because of the determination and single-mindedness of manager Darren Mullen and his backroom team of Raymond Byrne, Mickey Keenan and Jervis McCaul, and also because the players are loathe to let their promising come to an end.
Mullen himself has seen the club come too far in such a short space of time - reborn and rebranded in 2013, with an Intermediate B title in their first season, and a fifth place finish last season - to start letting things slip now… and it’s a viewpoint shared right through all levels of the club.
The Newry manager stated: “The fact that myself, Micky, Raymond and Jervis are four local lads that have all played for the club shows everyone that we aren’t in this for anything than progressing the club.
“There is a great hunger within the four of us, and that is transferred to the players. Anyone that plays against us can see that we are not only a decent side, but one that won’t give up and that gives it everything, every time we play.”
That outlook has given Newry City AFC a massive points advantage over the rest of the Intermediate A chasing pack entering into the middle third of the season. Yet despite the fact, they will not even begin to consider the possibility of winning the league, not to mention the biggest prize of all - possible promotion to the Northern Ireland Football League.
Mullen continued: “The ultimate plan is obviously to get up to the Premiership. A club of our size, city and status should be there. But there is no automatic right to get there.
“Micky doesn’t want us to look at the league until February, and it’s understandable. We are taking it one game at a time.
“You really don’t have time to think about how it’s going. I enjoy our wins on a Saturday evening, but that’s gone quickly, then you start focusing on the next training sessions and the next game. There is a lot of work that has been done on and off the pitch, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
“Whatever happens now, it will be difficult to win our league - on any given day, someone you expect to beat can surprise you. And even if we do win the league, depending on who else wins their leagues, there is still a chance we wouldn’t go up.”
But the most evident thing is that no matter how long they continue this fantastic unbeaten streak, Mullen and co will keep the players on their toes. Much of that comes down to their great strength in depth.
He added: “We weren’t beaten for 14 games in a row (although they were mostly in the cups) last season, and still ended up finishing fifth. But this year we have a stronger squad, with more experience.
“We ended up with eight new signings in the summer, with lads coming back to the club, and they have all gelled well with each other.
“We all had a meeting at the start of the season, and I told them that you have to work hard to get into the squad, and you have to work hard to stay there. It’s not always possible for lads at this level to be there, but there are times when they could have been elsewhere and they chose to stay and play. We are all working hard together.”
And while that continues to be the case, expect Newry City AFC to be at the forefront of any discussion about Mid Ulster football this season.