Belfast Telegraph

'I don't care': Glentoran boss Mick McDermott remaining focused despite decade-long table-topping statistic

Glentoran's Head Coach Michael McDermott
Mandatory Credit © INPHO/Brian Little
Glentoran's Head Coach Michael McDermott Mandatory Credit © INPHO/Brian Little
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Ask any Glentoran supporter how they feel about going top of the league in January for the first time in a decade and they're unlikely to give the same answer as the manager.

The Glens had to come from behind to beat Warrenpoint 2-1 at the Oval on Saturday afternoon, stretch their unbeaten run to 14 league games and edge past Cliftonville on goals scored at the Premiership summit.

The fact it's been 10 years since the Glens were looking down on the rest at this stage of a campaign speaks volumes not only about the struggles of the east Belfast side but also about the upturn in fortunes overseen by Mick McDermott.

"I don't really care, to be honest," replied the manager of the table-topping statistic. "There are no trophies handed out in January and I haven't even looked at the table.

"The most important thing is that Paul Millar (assistant manager) said if we ever got to the top of the league he would buy a round."

McDermott didn't turn down a coaching job with Carlos Queiroz at the Colombian national team just to take Glentoran to the top of the table in the middle of the season. Or to get a drink out of his old friend - not solely at least.

Rather, his focus remains fixed on the ultimate goal.

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"There are now 14 games to go," he continued. "That's not a mountain of matches so every game counts. It doesn't matter who you play.

"Our schedule just says 'game' and 'home' or 'away'. What's the point in putting the team? It doesn't matter.

"To go top, it's obviously nice. It's nice for the fans and for the community because they've been brilliant and they've suffered for a long time. Even though it's only for 48 hours.

"It's nice to be in the mix. We said we wanted to be close to the pack at the turn of the year, we did that, and now the target hasn't changed except we want to remain close to the pack. We wanted to prove we could be competitive and now we want to maintain that."

Warrenpoint had led through Alan O'Sullivan's 50th minute strike but the game turned on a 71st minute refereeing decision as Point goalkeeper Mark Byrne was given a straight red for clattering into Glentoran substitute Jonny Frazer.

Point substitute Emmett Bennett looked to have won the ball before Frazer's momentum took him into the out-rushing goalkeeper.

The score had reversed within six minutes, Hrvoje Plum first laying the equaliser on a plate for attacker Robbie McDaid.

The free-kick extraordinaire then lived up to his reputation, curling home the winner after more goalkeeping problems for the visitors as substitute stopper Berraat Turker raced from his goal only to concede a free-kick.

"If you look around any league in the world, there are few players who have scored six free-kicks and 13 goals from midfield this season," said McDermott. "Hrvoje's got more goals than most of the strikers in the league.

"It's nice to have him. He was a bit down on himself after the first half but when you've got good players, they can raise their game a gear. We knew we could go up a couple of gears in the second half.

"We know we've got quality and belief and so good things can happen.

"I wasn't worried. I knew we'd create two or three more chances because we've got quality, the boys have belief and they're fit. We've scored almost 50% of our goals in the last 30 minutes of matches which is interesting. That gives the boys belief. It's a credit to them as well. They're fit, healthy and eating well."

Glentoran, of course, will be overtaken at the top of the league come Monday evening, when Cliftonville host Linfield.

But the next two times the sun rises in the east at least, the Glens can bask in an unfamiliar looking January table.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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