BORDER CUP: Rathfriland boss is more calm Kirk than party Paul

Rathfriland celebrate with the trophy they've waited so long to get their hands on.  Photographer - Matt Mackey / Press Eye

Rathfriland celebrate with the trophy they've waited so long to get their hands on. Photographer - Matt Mackey / Press Eye

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Rathfriland boss Paul Kirk might not have lost any of his managerial prowess with age, but his appetite for a celebration has taken a hit.

Even helping his new club to their first ever Border Cup success with a 2-1 win over Downpatrick wasn’t enough to entice him out onto the town.

Rathfriland's Jonathan Roy.  Photographer - Matt Mackey / Press Eye

Rathfriland's Jonathan Roy. Photographer - Matt Mackey / Press Eye

“Do you want to know how I celebrated?” he laughed. “I went home for a glass of red wine and then I went out for a walk to clear my head after everything that had happened that day. Then I came back in for a big slice of cheesecake and I went to bed.

“I’m at the stage of my life where I like my own comforts.”

Even if his own desire to paint the hill red wasn’t quite there, he certainly didn’t stand in any of his players’ way of marking their cup success in fine fashion.

“I gave them the week off until the match on Saturday,” he said. “They have to enjoy those nights and be able to look back on them in years to come. There was no point coming in on Thursday after everything. We’ve had so many big matches lately. The lads went off to take a break and to come back refreshed.”

Nathan McConnell celebrates what would be Rathfriland's winning goal.  Photographer - Matt Mackey / Press Eye

Nathan McConnell celebrates what would be Rathfriland's winning goal. Photographer - Matt Mackey / Press Eye

JONNY’S GOAL WAS ‘BETTER THAN VAN PERSIE’S’

For Rathfriland’s opening goal-scorer Jonny Roy, the success had a little extra sparkle.

His was a strike that will live long in the memory of the large Rathfriland support that amde the trip to Seaview to see the 2-1 win over Downpatrick.

“The ball that Ally Wilson played to Jonny was hard to beat,” said manager Paul Kirk. “As Mal Donaghy said to me later, what was the full-back doing up there at that time of the match?

Downpatrick's Terence Bell in action with Rathfriland's David Graham.

Photographer - Matt Mackey / Press Eye

Downpatrick's Terence Bell in action with Rathfriland's David Graham. Photographer - Matt Mackey / Press Eye

“He saw a gap and went marauding forward. Fortunately the right man was on the ball to be able to find him. Ally has that ability to pick out a pass like that one.

“It was better than van Persie’s volley for United against Aston Villa. The ball came diagonally across and he melted it into the net. I was still admiring the pass that I didn’t realise the ball had gone in.”

The trophy victory marks arguably the brightest day in the club’s history but, while Kirk is taking great satisfaction in a job well done, he’s determined to make sure it’s just the start of a lustrous era for Rathfriland.

“I’m pleased for everybody at the club and I’m delighted that I could be the manager to bring the trophy to the club,” he beamed.

“It hasn’t been easy since we came in during the summer, changing mindsets and things but it’s been worth it to see what the guys have achieved already, especially considering the group only came together at the start of the season.

“What we learnt was that when you keep your standards up, people who can’t match them will leave themselves. That’s what we found. We now have a smaller squad but we have young players I have no problem with calling on. I know they will do a job for us.

“On the 27th December, the boys became a team. It happens when you see you have a common desire and that’s when you achieve results.

“Now we have to keep that momentum going.”

‘I KNOW IT’S NATHAN’S GOAL’

No matter what the record books will say, Rathfriland Rangers will always credit their winning goal to Nathan McConnell.

On the day, it went down as a Terence Brown own goal but one look at the replay shows that McConnell’s flicked header was destined for the net even before it canonned off the defender on the goal-line.

“It was his goal,” insisted boss Paul Kirk. “He knows it was and I know it was. I don’t care what anybody else says.

Kirk left the former Glenavon striker out of his starting line-up in favour of James Costello and Ally Wilson but says it was a decision he agonised over.

“I had a tough choice to make,” he said. “In the end, we thought we could benefit from Nathan’s running later in the game if we were under pressure and needed to get the ball into the channels.

“He works so hard, which is not always appreciated by a lot of people. He showed his worth and gave us another dimension. His movement was better and he held the ball up well. He won the free-kick for the winning goal and got a good header on the cross.”