Belfast Telegraph

Warrenpoint relishing chance to claim a huge scalp on opening day, insists McDonnell

By Steven Beacom

The thought of playing Coleraine away from home on the opening weekend of the season may see some managers running for the hills.

Not Stephen McDonnell.

Warrenpoint Town's 26-year-old boss is relishing the challenge of visiting the Showgrounds on Saturday to take on last season's runners-up in the title race, who one week after missing out on Championship success to Crusaders showed their character by claiming the Irish Cup.

Oran Kearney's Bannsiders will be odds-on favourites to blow Warrenpoint away, but for McDonnell it is a fixture to savour.

"I'm excited by the match," said the former Dundalk midfielder.

"Oran has them in top shape and they were a joy to watch last season.

"They are a highly impressive side and for me they were probably the most organised team but got pipped to the post at the end by Crusaders.

"It is actually a nice one for us to start with because it is not a game we are expected to get anything from, whereas if it was one of the teams likely to be around us in the table there would be that little bit more pressure.

"Going there for our lads there should be a weight off our shoulders, and I believe the players can enter the Coleraine match with confidence because we've had a really good pre-season.

"We've got our ideas across and have been getting the boys up to scratch fitness-wise so we'll enter the match with a positive feeling and see where it takes us."

McDonnell was viewed as a surprise appointment when he took over the reins in February on an interim basis when Matthew Tipton left after accepting the Portadown job.

By April, McDonnell had secured top-flight football for Warrenpoint and earned himself a new contract.

Now the aim is to build on what he has already achieved, with numerous arrivals and departures in the summer as he strives to make it his team with an identity to be proud of.

"We want to make progress. When a new manager comes in it can go one of two ways and thankfully we got a positive reaction from the group, made an impact and got a few ideas across," said McDonnell.

"We are still a small club and the main focus for us will be to stay in the league and try to build on our ideas with the new additions we have brought to the club.

"We have a squad of 20 and I'd like to get one or two more in and am working on that at the moment.

"We have recruited players to suit what we are looking to do and build an identity for Warrenpoint Town.

"When we speak about a club like Crusaders we know what style they will play and we want to create an identity so that when people speak about us they have an idea of what they are going to see.

"Will it win us every game? Absolutely not. But it's having the idea and following that idea and going with it.

"There will be different pressures that I've never experienced at this level but we are ready to embrace them.

"We have made additions to the backroom team and the first-team panel is what we have put together to create that identity, so it will be interesting to see how it all comes together."

Belfast Telegraph

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