Belfast Telegraph

Warrenpoint turn to Gray to spark a revival

Old routine: Barry Gray is back in Warrenpoint colours
Old routine: Barry Gray is back in Warrenpoint colours

By Steven Beacom

Barry Gray is back in charge of Warrenpoint Town and will endeavour to have an instant impact with the Milltown men travelling to play relegation rivals Carrick Rangers tomorrow.

Gray has taken over from Stephen McDonnell, who was relieved of his duties on Wednesday night with Town bottom of the table having earned just three points from their opening 12 league games.

No decision has been taken on how long Gray will be the boss. As it stands, he has been brought in to steady the ship.

If he delivers results, and wants to remain on a more long-term basis, the job would probably be his, though already Warrenpoint have received numerous enquiries and applications from both sides of the border in relation to the post.

Gray enjoyed success at Warrenpoint in his previous spell, inspiring them to reach the top flight for the first time in the club's history.

Ironically, before departing the hotseat in 2016 he brought McDonnell on to the coaching staff.

Appointed as Cliftonville manager in June 2017, Gray led the Reds to an Irish Cup final the following year but was sacked last January after a poor run of form.

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"This appointment is about stability following a rough start to the league campaign," said Warrenpoint managing director Connaire McGreevy.

"Barry has been here before and got the t-shirt and knows full well the battle we face to get competitive in this league.

"The work going on behind the scenes to transform the club continues, but it is imperative that Premiership status is maintained," he added.

"Barry gives us the time and space required to get the business end tied up as we plan for the long-term future."

After Gray's successor Matthew Tipton left for Portadown in February last year, McDonnell took over on an interim basis at just 25, making him the youngest boss ever in the Irish League's top flight.

By the age of 26, having kept Town in the Premiership, he was handed a three-year contract and last season guided Warrenpoint to their greatest campaign, easing away from relegation trouble with their highest points total and reaching the Irish Cup semi-finals, and all the while the attractive football played by his team was earning rave reviews.

But, after a high turnover of players in the summer, Town have struggled this term, winning just once in the league to date, leaving them two points behind Institute and six adrift of Carrick. The 7-0 defeat at Linfield on Tuesday night proved the final straw for the board.

McDonnell is determined to return to management and will do so stronger for the Warrenpoint experience.

Departing, he thanked all those connected with the club, adding that he believed the team could stay up this season. A result under Gray against Carrick would certainly help.

• Northern Ireland's leading recruitment company, Grafton Recruitment Ireland, has agreed to provide support for referees as part of an ongoing partnership deal with the Irish Football Association.

The sponsorship package is aimed at boosting the development of refereeing in Northern Ireland. Under the deal, Irish FA referees will wear Grafton sponsorship on the sleeves of their match tops.

Tina McKenzie, chief executive of Grafton Recruitment Ireland, said: "The team at Grafton Recruitment are delighted to lend their support to referees seeking to hone and improve their skills through a range of training and development initiatives.

"In many ways the game is only as good as the experts who referee it. That is why we believe it is vital that referees receive every support possible to be the most professional they can be."

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