Mullen eager to keep Loughgall cup dream alive at Glenavon
Loughgall’s free-scoring Warner Mullen is loving life at Lakeview Park, but insists that a Tennent's Irish Cup final appearance for his club would eclipse all personal glory and accolades that have come his way so far this season.
It has been an incredible campaign for the Strabane striker, whose nine goals last month helped to earn him the January award for the Northern Ireland Football Writers Association’s Championship Player of the Month. He also now leads the Championship One goalscoring charts, with his winning penalty over Donegal Celtic at the weekend bringing his league total to a hugely impressive 23.
Mullen knows his club have done extremely well to reach the latter stages of a competition so often dominated by teams from the top flight, and that this Saturday’s quarter-final clash with neighbours Glenavon (Mourneview Park, 3pm) represents a challenging assignment, but that doesn’t stop him or his team-mates from dreaming of a big day out at Windsor in May.
“An Irish Cup final would top everything for me,” he said. “Definitely. Playing with Championship clubs, you don’t ever really even think about it, because you don’t imagine it could happen. You just try and get as far as you can.
“But now, we are two games from the final. Of course Glenavon will be tough - they are in good form at the minute - but anything can happen on any given day. Freak results do happen… look at Leicester. If teams go into games with complacency, then you’ve always got a chance.”
However, it’s unlikely that anyone at Mourneview Park will be underestimating the firepower of this hotshot front-man. For the past two seasons, most of the buzz around the Championship has been about the irrepressible Michael McLellan, and rightly so - it’s not often that you come across a striker that can net you 74 goals in a season and a half.
But with the former Harland & Wolff Welders man making his move to Linfield in the January transfer window, it looks like it could well be Mullen who finishes the campaign on the centre stage. Though he admits that the season has been going much better than he ever could have dreamt.
Mullen continued: “At the start of any season, I look for 10 or maybe 15 goals, but things are going so well this year. I have been getting in the box and getting onto the ball a lot more.
“As soon as I heard Michael was gone from the Welders, I thought ‘it would be good to finish top scorer.’ It’s something to aim for.
“I was level on 22 league goals with him last week, and then I had to go into nets (against Lurgan Celtic) at half time, and one of their goals hit off the crossbar and went off me into the net. I said to the boys, ‘I’ll take take whatever goals come my way.’”
Of course there is a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek to his remarks, but there is no doubting Mullen’s commitment to Loughgall.
He added: “I have loved every minute of it. Loughgall are a club full of good people, they are very supportive.
“I had contact in January from a Premiership club, but I turned it down. Part of me was obviously flattered, but I am enjoying myself and scoring goals - I am happy where I am.
“I have found out that times can get tough, but when they are good, you just want to keep it going.”
That will be music to the ears of the club’s recently-appointed manager Gerald Boyle, and all connected with Loughgall, who will enjoy watching Mullen pit his wits against one of local football’s top sides at the weekend.