Warrenpoint players must be fired up by chance to take down Linfield stars, says boss Stephen McDonnell
Linfield v Warrenpoint, Danske Bank Premiership, Windsor Park, Tonight, 7.45pm
Warrenpoint Town boss Stephen McDonnell says he would love to be playing rather than coaching against Linfield at Windsor Park tonight and has urged his team to embrace the fixture rather than fear it.
The 27-year-old had to quit playing competitive football due to a heart condition and since then has been making a name for himself in the Irish League as a bright young manager.
Last season he guided Town to their best ever season in the top flight and the Irish Cup semi-finals. This campaign has that difficult second album feel to it with Warrenpoint bottom of the Danske Bank Premiership with just one win from 11 league games, though, on the upside, they are not cut adrift, with Institute just two points ahead and Carrick Rangers six in front.
McDonnell's men travel to Carrick on Saturday in a vital bottom of the table clash. Before that, this evening they face David Healy's champions, who can move to within two points of the top with a home win.
"We have a tough week coming up now but I see it as a good week because you are going to Windsor Park to play in the national stadium against Linfield. I'd love to be playing in that game," said McDonnell.
The Town boss, who scored a fabulous goal at Windsor in a low-intensity charity game in the summer, added: "I wonder how many of our boys feel like that or if they are scared of going to Windsor. I want them to be relishing the opportunity to go up against players like Bastien Hery and Shayne Lavery.
"These are guys who are top players. Our boys need to want to get to where those guys are in their careers. Not all will, but you have to have that desire.
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"Look at a player like Gareth McAuley. He began in the Irish League and went on to become a top centre-back in the Premier League in England. Everyone's story has to start somewhere and I want our players to learn fast. It's up to them because this is a sink or swim scenario.
"You are getting the opportunity to compete in the top division of Irish League football whether you are 18, 28 or 38. You have to have that burning desire to compete.
"I've said to them it could be your first time going to Windsor or your second time or even your last time. You have to cherish those moments, and against Linfield we are getting the opportunity to compete against a real top outfit.
"The satisfaction of putting in a performance would be very pleasing. If we get a result there like we did last year when we drew 1-1 it would be even better."
Already without long-term injury victim and influential midfielder Francis McCaffrey, Warrenpoint could lose another inspirational figure in Philip Donnelly. It is understood the Monaghan GAA team would like forward Donnelly to play for them, which could curtail his appearances for Town.