By Kieran Lynch
WARRENPOINT pulled off arguably the biggest shock in any of the Ulster Club Senior Football Championships to this point, when they knocked out Burren on penalties on Monday night.
The ‘Point, who last contested the county final in 2019, were major underdogs going into the game, and manager Shane Mulholland spoke to Gaelic Life about his emotions after the victory.
“It’s always great when you come out on the right side of a game like that,” he said.
“It’s a difficult one for Burren to take, when there’s nothing in the game, and of course penalties are a lottery. It’s a local derby, and there is a great sense of rivalry between the two teams, because historically Burren have won so many trophies, and Warrenpoint haven’t, so it was great to come out on the right side of it.”
Warrenpoint’s underdog status owed to the strength of their opposition in Burren; but it was also due to them having a number of absences, with key players Ross McGarry, Ryan McAleenan and Aaron Magee all out with injuries.
However, Mulholland said that his message to the team was to have belief in themselves.
“I kept saying to them in the huddle, ‘don’t just get the pat on the back that you nearly got there, let’s finish this off and make sure we win in it,’” he explained.
“But there is good belief in that group – we have lost a couple of really important players to injury, which might have actually galvanised the lads, and they really believed that they could win it.”
As for winning on penalties, the debate rages on as to their place in the GAA, but Mulholland hopes that they’re here to stay.
“I’m a believer in penalties as a way to decide the game, because I’m a big believer in the calendar,” said the Warrenpoint manager.
“Because everybody plans their lives around it – evenings, weekends, and we have fellas there trying to organise work schedules around it, and lads want to book weekends away too. People have to live.
“The calendar is fixed, and when you throw in replays, the whole calendar gets torn up. So, when the game gets finished on the night, you know where you are.
“Penalties are a harsh way to go, but the more we do it, the more people will accept it.”
There’s no rest for Warrenpoint, with a six-day turnaround leading into this weekend’s semi-final clash against Loughinisland; a team who defeated Warrenpoint 0-14 to 0-11 earlier in the championship.
“We started that game quite well and led 0-8 to 0-3 at half-time, but they just blitzed us in the second half,” Mulholland conceded.
“They dominated the middle, won nearly every break ball, and we just imploded – it was a really poor performance, and it left a lot of questions to be asked about the group. I just hope that wee bit of hurt from the previous game, as well as our win against Burren can get us through.
“Jim McCorry said to me after the game, ‘there’s no point in winning that game and not following up.’ So, that’s the challenge for us: can we get another top performance at the business end of the season?”