A knockout performance

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

A knockout performance thumbnailStevie Coulter celebrates with Rathfriland chairman Junior Murray after the final whistle. Photographs: Alan Weir. 01953c

RATHFRILAND Rangers will use their Border Regiment Cup triumph as a launchpad in the quest for more silverware in 2017, manager Paul Kirk has vowed.
In bringing the coveted cup back to the Hill, the Whites ended a phenomenal year of success in style.
Having won the NAFL Division 1A title in May, the club is now adding the top prize in amateur level football to the Iveagh Park trophy cabinet.
And if Kirk's intentions are anything to go by, Rathfriland chairman Howard Murray may have to order a bigger display unit for the clubhouse wall, because with three more trophies up for grabs this term, the boss is hungry for more.
“It's not a case of: 'We've won the Border Cup, let's relax' - no way," he told The Outlook.
“I allowed the players a bit of time over Christmas and a break after the final - we'd given it a really hard go from the start of the season up to now.
“I said to them: 'Go and party and do what you need to do for the next couple of nights'.
“But they're refreshed for the new year because we could have another major trophy in our cabinet - it's certainly not beyond us."
Kirk himself has been no stranger to glory down through the years, with a biscuit tin brimming with medals from his time as a player and a manager.
His peak was leading Lisburn Distillery to European football, but he had unfinished business in the Border Cup having seen it snatched from his grasp when he managed Killyleagh.
Because of that, this victory is one he will "cherish".
“This is right up there with the best achievements, and your last one is always your best," he beamed.
“When I managed Killyleagh we got to three finals and lost them all of them.
“That's how cruel the cups were to me, so I was delighted to win it this time around.
“And it's even more special because this is the first time the club has won the Border Cup, so I've done a first for Rathfriland, which is brilliant."
There is no doubt in Kirk's mind that his side deserved their late Christmas present and he lauded his players for stepping up and delivering on the day.
“Some of the work the boys were putting in was phenomenal," he said.
“[Stevie] Coulter was magnificent and Jonboy [Scannell] never gets the credit he deserves.
“I've no doubt about it, we controlled the whole game, and when we got that goal I was quite convinced we would see it out - we were worthy of our win.
“The team talk before the game was all about doing things together, and I challenged them because I wasn't sure that since I'd arrived whether they transformed from a group of individual players to a team.
“But they did that on the day, they stuck together - I saw a unitedness about them."
And he revealed that his side has received plaudits for their performance from some legends of the game.
Former Manchester United and Chelsea defender Mal Donaghy was watching from the stand at Seaview and messaged Kirk say the Whites "played the game the right way" adding that Downpatrick "didn't know how to break down" their system or their shape.
While there was bitter disappointment last month that Rathfriland were unable to secure a Christmas cup final double when they lost to Dollingstown in the Bob Radcliffe Cup semi-final, Kirk insisted that defeat had probably been for the best.
And he said he was much happier with the trophy he had his hands on than the one that got away.
“I know Dollingstown beat us and went on to win the Bob Radcliffe Cup quite convincingly, but I don't think we would have won the Border Cup if we had have had to play in the Radcliffe Cup final a day or two earlier.
“If somebody had said to me: 'You've got a chance of getting to two finals, which one do you want?' the Border Cup would've been the one I'd have been looking for."
And the gaffer paid tribute to the travelling Whites' fans, whose Rathfriland roar rang around north Belfast.
“It was great for the club and great for the town, I'm delighted for the supporters.
“They were amazing, absolutely amazing - all credit to them for the noise they made.
“And I'm absolutely delighted that we sent them back down the road as champions.
“I really do thank the fans for coming out in the numbers that they did and I'm glad that Rathfriland now have a major trophy in their cabinet.
“Let's get those supporters back out again, let's get behind the boys and make it a really good season from here on in."


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