Tonight’s Bob Radcliffe Cup Semi Final at the Showgrounds between Newry and Coagh has been called off due to a frozen pitch. Details of the rearranged tie will be published as soon as we have them.
The recent appointment of legendary Town / City striker and former manager Ollie Ralph, as the new Honorary President of Newry City AFC, was greeted with much delight, joy and satisfaction by all concerned with our club.
Ollie, scorer of an amazing three hundred and five goals for The Town, began his career with two junior clubs, in his native Dundalk. First with St Dominic’s and then with Bank Rovers FC. His high level of performance at junior and intermediate level soon attracted the attention of his hometown senior club Dundalk FC and he signed for the Oriel Park team prior to the start of the 1981-82 season. This move by the talented young Ralph, brought much pleasure to his family, as he was now following in the footsteps of his famous footballing father, Joe Ralph. Joe had been an outstanding full back with Dundalk FC for a number of earlier years in the League of Ireland.
The highly promising striker got away to a flying start with Dundalk FC winning a senior League of Ireland championship honour in his first season 1981-82 and followed this up with a League Cup Winners Award during 1982-83. It was however, during the latter season, that he received a serious injury on the field of play, and this injury was considered initially to be career threatening.
Luckily, it wasn’t, but as a result of this injury, he was side-lined for quite a lengthy time, and during the healing period, he became somewhat detached from his hometown club. Ollie was determined to make a quick return to the game and he fought strenuously and courageously to regain his full fitness in the summer of 1983.
At the same time and almost by co-incidence, Newry Town FC had been dramatically co-opted to the Irish Senior League and manager Barry Brown was desperately striving and anxious to strengthen the squad for the new 1983-84 season. As a consequence, Ollie was invited to train at The Showgrounds and play for The Town in the pre-season friendly fixtures. He made an instant impact at The Showgrounds with his electric pace and accurate finishing ability but these qualities had also been noted by Newry’s Irish League rivals Glenavon who quickly made him an offer to sign.
Much to the relief of Manager Barry Brown, Ollie rejected the offer from Glenavon and happily put pen to paper for The Town and in the years ahead, he was to prove a real significant and landmark signing for the club.
He was a Co. Antrim Shield Winner with The Town in 1987-88, a Mid Ulster Cup Winner on three occasions 1984-85, 1986-87, and 1989-90, and topped the Irish Senior League goal scoring chart with 42 goals during the 1989-90 season. He also won both the NI Football Writers Player of The Year Award and Ulster Footballer of the Year in 1990 and got two representative honours with the Irish League.
Ollie’s fantastic playing career with The Town came more or less to an end around 1996/97 but for a number of years following that he managed and coached the club.
Speaking to the Newry Reporter on his appointment as Newry City AFC Honorary President, Ollie spoke of his pride at being awarded the position at what he calls a “family club”.
He said: “It’s a huge honour, I couldn’t believe it, when I got the call and I was absolutely delighted to accept it. It just keeps the link going and it’s lovely to be part of things again. Newry have been very good to me. I have been here a long, long time and they have looked after me in every way, in friendship as well as football.”
Report by Jim Campbell
Newry kicked off their Mid Ulster Intermediate A campaign with a trip to Lower Maze. The conditions were remarkably similar to the opening game of last season. Just as at Bourneview, the sun shone down on the lush turf of the tree lined pitch. Unfortunately, that’s where the similarities ended as a repeat of last year’s comfortable win rarely looked on the cards against a well drilled and competitive home side.
The first half was something of a non-event from a Newry perspective as they struggled to create anything of note. The only half chance came just before the half hour mark when Jimmy Walker played a neat one two with Sean McMullan on the edge of the box, only to shoot well over the bar.
Lower Maze defended well from front to back, forcing Newry to go long earlier than ideal and thus limited City’s attacking thrust, while the hosts were dangerous themselves when they broke forward at pace. They created two decent chances inside the opening 15 minutes; one very presentable opening blazed over by a well-placed centre forward and another quick break that forced Peter Murphy to race from his goal. Murphy made half a block and when the ball broke to the Maze winger, his cross into the box was cleared by David O’Connor. Murphy made another decent block midway through the half while the home side had two penalty claims turned down, one of which might have been given after the ball struck Conor McCaul’s hand.
The half time break offered Darren Mullen and his backroom team the opportunity to remedy the situation and they brought on Kenny Kearns for Aaron Brilly as well as changing formation from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3. The changes almost paid immediate dividends as Mark Patton played in Neil Barr, moved to a central role having played on the left in the first moiety. Barr raced clear but slotted just wide. Nonetheless, this was better and City didn’t have to wait long for a breakthrough. Establishing a greater degree of control in midfield, Kearns played McMullan in behind the home defence. Initially he didn’t look like getting there, but he reached the ball just in time to nip it past the home keeper who duly brought him down. McMullan dusted himself down and stepped up to slot the penalty and give City the lead.
Newry were now in the ascendancy but would spurn a series of opportunities to make their supremacy count. McMullan had two efforts, one shot just wide and a header saved while a cross from the same player was almost turned in to his own net by a home defender as Newry looked to turn the screw. City were a little unlucky on 63 minutes when O’Connor’s cross was headed home by Patton only for the referee to disallow the effort for an apparent infringement on the home goalkeeper.
A single goal lead is always precarious and so it proved. On 72 minutes, a Lower Maze corner wasn’t properly cleared and when the ball dropped just outside the box, the home player stroked home a sweet strike in to the bottom corner of the net. The goal rocked Newry back on their heels while giving a new lease of life to the home side. The game was much more even now but chances were hard to come by and the game appeared to be petering out as the clock ticked down. With ten minutes to go a dangerous Lower Maze break ended with a shot from their lively number 15 which was blocked before, to their credit, Newry roused themselves for one last effort which incredibly yielded four decent chances in the last five minutes. On 87 minutes, a superb McMahon ball released sub Chris Fay, but he shot wide when well placed. Then Fay turned provider with a cross to Neil Barr whose instinctive flick fell into the arms of the grateful home keeper. Newry kept coming, Walker played in Barr who shot straight at the keeper from a difficult angle before Paddy Magill and Mark Patton combined to provide a final chance which Barr clipped just wide.
After the game, manager Darren Mullen commented that, “we had a very poor first half and struggled to break them down. The intensity of our play wasn’t good enough and we kept giving the ball away. We looked a lot better in the second half when Kenny Kearns came on and we changed the formation. Once we scored we failed to take our further chances and paid the price. Although we had chances to win in it the end it was a disappointing performance but it shows the lads that this is a tough league and we are going to have to work very hard to get any rewards this season. It’s only the first game and we look forward now to 3 home games in a row.”
Plenty to ponder then for Newry. After a disappointing first half display, the side were much improved after the break but a failure to convert a host of chances meant one point instead of three. Newry now look forward to a first home game of the season, a tough one against Ballymacash Rangers on Tuesday evening, kick off at 8pm.
Newry City: Peter Murphy, David O’Connor, Paddy Magill, Paul Donegan, Conor McCaul, Chris McMahon, Aaron Brilly (Kenny Kearns), Jimmy Walker, Sean McMullan (Chris Fay), Mark Patton, Neil Barr. Subs not used: Niall Crilly, Ian Curran, Graeme Edgar.
newrycityafc.co.uk MOTM: David O’Connor