Newry City v Warrenpoint: From a pub side to top level club, Point have sights set on Europe
Warrenpoint chairman Connaire McGreevy has outlined ambitious plans to qualify for Europe ahead of the club's 30th anniversary celebrations in the town tonight.
Currently enjoying the 'best season' in their history, Warrenpoint are ninth in the Danske Bank Premiership, still in the Irish Cup, in the Mid-Ulster Cup final, have one of the youngest managers in Europe in Stephen McDonnell and have become renowned for playing a stylish brand of football.
Not bad for a club who started out as a pub team - or three to be exact: Ross Point, Ardallan and Reeds Factory.
It has been a quite a journey for the men from Milltown rising through the ranks of the Mid-Ulster League and Championship to reach the top flight in Northern Ireland.
They first played in the Irish Premiership in 2013 before being relegated in 2016, coming back up the next year. Now they want to establish themselves in the big league with youth at the heart of their dreams.
"We have come a long way and there is still much to do and achieve," says McGreevy, who tonight will give a speech about the past, present and future of the club at the anniversary dinner in the Whistledown Hotel.
"We started when three clubs came together in a local pub in the town. It was essentially three pub teams who became a bigger pub team.
"It then took around another 15 years before the youth element came. Now we have Warrenpoint Youth and that is a big factor for us in developing players from the local area for our first team. We want to see more of that.
"We have big plans. We are applying for the UEFA Licence this year for the first time. We may not get through it but it is a learning curve for us to try and get it next season because we are ambitious and want to qualify for Europe and bring European football to Warrenpoint for the first time ever."
Warrenpoint have the lowest average home attendance in the Irish Premiership but the numbers are increasing.
"We are a community club at heart and our fan base is building," says McGreevy.
"We are seeing new faces coming to the ground and more volunteers coming forward which is fantastic. We are also seeing more and more people wearing our jerseys.
"Ten years ago you wouldn't have seen anyone wearing a Warrenpoint jersey. Now you walk around the town and you might see one in 10 people wearing a Warrenpoint jersey or a top of some description. That shows the progress we are making.
"We are a pub team that has become a Premiership club and have plans to develop our youth structure and our facilities. We do have to compete with other sports in the area but there is a lot of goodwill for Warrenpoint Town Football Club and we want people to come out and support us and help us grow."
McGreevy , who describes Town's only two previous chairmen, Michael Gray and Johnny Bird as 'giants', is fully aware others are watching 26-year-old McDonnell's exploits. Along with Barry Gray and Matthew Tipton, the Dundalk native is in a select group of men who have managed Town in the Premiership.
The astute McDonnell, whose side travel to derby rivals Newry City today, has been getting the best out of players such as Alan O'Sullivan, Philip Donnelly, Ciaran O'Connor, Francis McCaffrey, Eamon Scannell, on loan from Linfield, and Danny Wallace this term.
"Stephen has a project here and is pushing on with that. We are a young club with a young manager who wants to cut his teeth and he's proving himself here. Our hope is that he continues to develop with us and take us forward," said McGreevy.