Belfast Telegraph

Warrenpoint boss handed control to players for Irish Cup quarter-final in bid to end losing streak

Warrenpoint Town 3 Larne Tech Old Boys 1

Warrenpoint Town Simon Kelly celebrates his hat-trick in Saturday's Irish Cup quarter-final.
Warrenpoint Town Simon Kelly celebrates his hat-trick in Saturday's Irish Cup quarter-final.
Stop here: Simon Kelly tackles Larne Tech’s Christopher Morton

By Steven Beacom

Stephen McDonnell is not your run of the mill football manager. For starters he is only 26 and on Saturday he created history by leading Warrenpoint Town into the Irish Cup semi-finals for the first time in their history.

Prior to the 3-1 victory over Amateur League outfit Larne Tech Old Boys, he made a big call deciding to let the players take training and come up with a plan to triumph in the tie.

McDonnell's reasoning behind it was that the team had lost their previous four league games and he wanted to try something different. It worked with inspirational captain Simon Kelly netting a treble to see the Milltown men into the last four.

Kelly's early penalty put the home side in control and in the second half the centre-back scored two headers to seal the deal, the hat-trick goal coming in injury time after Sean Ward's strike for Larne Tech set up a gripping finale.

"We'd had four wallopings so the players took training on Thursday night," revealed McDonnell, who was noticeably a lot less vocal than normal on the sidelines at the weekend.

"We (the coaching staff) sat in the stand and left it to the players. The session was player-led and they came up with a quality session.

"They did their own report on Larne Tech Old Boys and came up with how we were going to beat them. That was down to the players.

"For us, it was a case of selecting the starting 11 and letting them play. It was a one-off with them taking training but the players deserve credit for how they approached and prepared for the game and won it."

Tech boss Johnny Hastings said: "I was delighted with the second half. I said to the boys at half-time not to have any regrets and give it a go and we did that.

"Warrenpoint didn't score from open play and they had to work hard for their win. I'm really proud of the efforts of the players. It was a great week for the club, the build-up was incredible and the supporters have enjoyed it as much as we have.

"Our cup run has to galvanise us to push for promotion now. We have to use it as motivation."

WARRENPOINT: Thompson, Foster, Moan, Reilly, Kelly, Griffin (Hughes, 59 mins), J Lynch (Macedo Marques, 79 mins), M Lynch, Watters (McGrandles, 52 mins), Wallace, Donnelly. Unused subs: Turker, Copes.

LARNE TECH: Keenan, Hyslop, Mulvenna, McKenna, Devine, S Todd (McNally, 74 mins), C Todd, Morton (Thompson, 79 mins), Maguire, McAllister, Ward (McAuley, 88 mins). Unused subs: Campbell, Quinn, Mulvenna, Nelson.

Referee: Steven Gregg (Ballyclare)

Man of the match: Simon Kelly

Match rating: 6/10

Belfast Telegraph

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