The turnaround in our season has been amazing says Warrenpoint boss Stephen McDonnell

It’s safe to say an Irish Cup final and the chance to play European football were the last things on the mind of Warrenpoint Town boss Stephen McDonnell after the first month of the season.

Saturday, 30th March 2019, 9:23 am
Updated Saturday, 30th March 2019, 9:26 am
Warrenpoint manager Stephen McDonnell

Seven defeats on the spin in all competitions left the Milltown club looking doomed even at that early stage.

It took until September 15th for McDonnell’s men to finally register a win when they staged a dramatic injury time comeback to beat Cliftonville.

The Point have gone from strength to strength since then and are currently 15 points clear of the relegation zone and just four points off a Europa League play-off spot.

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Warrenpoint manager Stephen McDonnell. Credit ©INPHO/©Matt Mackey

And then there’s the small matter of this Saturday’s Irish Cup semi final against Ballinamallard United, which is the club’s and McDonnell’s biggest ever game.

“We could have crumbled at the start of the year, but we’re firm believers in what we are doing,” he said.

“I think when we reflect back at the end of the season the turnaround is amazing.

“I think we were ten points adrift at the start of the season after we lost the first six games.

“To be where we are now, 15 points clear of the relegation zone and looking up.

“We’re going into the split now to face five teams who I think we can beat.

“If we do that we’ll be sitting seventh at the end of the season.

“There’s not such a big gap ahead of us, but there’s a big gap below us which is pleasing.

“Beating Ballymena last week was massive for us.

“It was good from a confidence point of view to build towards for what will be for the majority of the squad the biggest game of their career.

“For me in management and in my playing career it will be the biggest game I’ve been involved in.

“It will be an exciting week leading up to the game. We will train three nights, and there is bunting up everywhere, the town has a buzz about it.

“We are obviously looking forward to it.

“It’s a great opportunity for the club.

“Let alone making history and all that, and the same goes for Ballinamallard, we know we can beat each other.

“And I’d say it’s the same in the other semi final between Coleraine and Crusaders.

“The four teams left know they can beat each other.

“We’ll just be hoping we can come out in the right end of it.

“If they put the application in like the did against Ballymena then I don’t see why that would be a problem.”

McDonnell knows it will be a tough test against the Mallards, who themselves have had a dramatic turnaround this season.

“Other than Larne, Ballinamallard are the best footballing team in the Championship,” he said.

“They can cause problems for anyone on their day, and the fact the game is at Mourneview Park, on a big surface, a good surface, it will suit them as much as it suits us.

“We won’t be taking our eye off the ball.

“If we were in the Championship this year we would be second, so there would only be four positions between us, that’s the way I look at it.

“We need to keep the nerves at the front door and hopefully we can go on and put in a performance.

“It’s going to be very tricky though. In Harry McConkey they have one of the most organised men in football.

“It’s going to be a difficult challenge but the ball is in our court equally as much as it is in Ballinamallard’s.

“If you do enough on the day you deserve to win.”