Belfast Telegraph

Club focus: Lurgan Thistle boss Damien Henderson shows he's the daddy

By Keith Bailie

For Club Focus we usually meet with the manager, but this week, Lurgan Thistle's Damien Henderson had much more important business to deal with.

The Thistle manager has just become a father, with his partner giving birth to a baby boy. As such, Damien deferred his media duties to chairman Paul O'Neill.

O'Neill said: “Damien is over the moon. Mother and child are doing well and everybody at the club is delighted for him.”

As a club, Lurgan Thistle are also in their infancy. Paul O'Neill and a number of friends founded the team in 2010. They've already achieved some success, winning the MUFL Division 4 Cup in 2012.

But Paul O'Neill is happy to admit when they set Thistle up, the decision wasn't universally popular.

Some questioned whether Lurgan needed another football club, but Thistle have proven themselves to be a worthy addition to the Mid Ulster Football League.

O'Neill explained: “When we started Lurgan Thistle we took a bit of flak for setting up a new club rather than working with an already established club. People said we were diluting the talent pool, but a few more clubs have been founded since we started.

“We were at Lurgan United at the time and we had a few different ideas about how we wanted to run a football club, so we broke away on our own.

“We wanted to do things in a different manner. We're not disciplinarians — we trust the players to behave themselves — we have given them some autonomy and they've responded well.

“We're happy with how things are going and everyone at the club is still enjoying it.”

Last season Thistle struggled on the field, which founder member O'Neill believes was down to a poor attitude off the field.

Along with new manager Damien Henderson, the Jags have brought in a string of new players, and the chairman believes the club is much better for it.

“We underachieved last season so we decided to change a few things for this year. Damien Henderson is our new manager and we've brought in a number of new players.

“Last season, we had some good players but the attitude wasn't right. Now we have a much more positive changing room, which has created a much better atmosphere around the club.

“Last season players were always blaming each other, now the lads are much more understanding. They're all working together and you can see the difference that has made on the pitch in just a few short weeks.”

Thistle currently sit fourth in Division 4. Chairman O'Neill refuses to rule out promotion this season, but he admits moving up to Division 3 is more of a long term ambition for the Tandragee Road club.

“Our aim is to gain promotion to Division 3 within the next couple of seasons. It's not impossible, we could manage it this season, but I'd be happy if we just improved on last season's performances. We're still in the process of strengthening both our firsts and our seconds.

“Ultimately, our aim is to be competing for silverware. That's what everyone wants to do.”


Name: Lurgan Thistle

League: MUFL Division 4

Founded: 2010

Nicknames: The Jags

Ground: Gordon Playing Fields, Tandragee Road

Colours: Yellow and Blue

Gaffer: Damien Henderson

Skipper: Stephen Smith

Sharpshooter: Barry McKeever or Caolan Boyle

Most Skillful: Chris Kiely

Hard Man: Conor Wilkinson

Club Comedian: The whole team thinks they're funny

Best Moment: Winning the Division 4 Cup in 2012

Club Man: Everybody on the committee works hard for the club

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