Ryan Cinnamond's inspiring speech hopes to lift Newry City to great heights
Danske Bank Irish Premiership: Newry City v Warrenpoint Town (Today, Newry Showgrounds, 3pm)
NEWRY City manager Darren Mullen has lauded a goose-bumped speech Ryan Cinnamond delivered to his players after Thursday night's training session as the club tries to arrest their league slump.
Newry-born Ryan (23) lost both his legs from the knees down after suffering a life-threatening aneurysm when he was just 15.
Only a couple of years after life-saving surgery, Ryan learned to walk again with computerised legs and knees.
His Twitter profile reads: ‘You're not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are abled by the abilities that you have.'
During his talk with the Newry City players on Thursday night you could hear a pin drop.
When Ryan concluded his speech applause rang out around the changing room.
Mullen, whose side languish second from bottom of the Irish Premiership, met Ryan at a recent youth awards ceremony and was inspired by his uplifting message to his audience.
“Ryan was speaking when I was presenting the awards, and to hear his story I thought it was amazing what the lad had come through,” explained Mullen.
“He was somebody I'd always intended to bring down to the players because obviously the situation we're in, it's easy to feel sorry for ourselves.
“When you're down in luck in football terms, it's nothing compared to what Ryan has gone through.”
It helped that Ryan is a big Newry City fan with his father, John, a former player of the club.
“It was something different. We ended up finishing training a wee bit early and we got the lads in. In telling his story Ryan was not looking for pity; he just put his story across and how he dealt with adversity.”
A keen Gaelic footballer and soccer player before he lost his legs Ryan will attend today's home game with Warrenpoint.
“As I said to the players, the fact that he's up speaking to the players takes courage in itself.”
Last season, Mullen invited climber Terence ‘Banjo' Bannon to speak with his players ahead of their promotion play-off with Carrick Rangers in a bid to find that extra five per cent that would make the difference.
Newry haven't won a Premiership game since November 30 – a gutsy away victory against Coleraine – and are currently on a five-game losing streak ahead of today's local derby clash.
Mullen, however, believes it's not the time for the management and players to feel sorry for themselves and has been encouraged by many aspects of Newry's play.
“I have to say our lads have been brilliant and bringing in Ryan was just to reinforce the message that it's going to be difficult but the last thing you do is give up.”
Undoubtedly, Newry's performances deserve more points than they've accumulated this season.
Last Tuesday night, they missed a penalty to draw level with leaders Linfield and the Blues ended up winning 2-0.
In their two encounters with Warrenpoint so far this season Newry have conceded last-gasp equalisers to Stephen O'Donnell's side.
“After missing the penalty against Linfield [on Tuesday night], it's easy to think: ‘That's just our luck'.
“But we can't think like that. We can't ever feel sorry for ourselves. I keep telling the players that things will turn but we have to stick together and it will happen.
“You can't start bemoaning your luck and telling everybody things are not going for us. As a manager, I can't start projecting that because that can run through your team and the club.
“There is a lot of football to be played and I'm confident we'll get our rewards. We're putting everything into this season and that's all you can ask of everybody.”
New signing Ger Pender misses today's third league meeting between the Co Down clubs due to injury but Mark McCabe and Stephen Hughes are available again.
MEANWHILE, Linfield's Michael O'Connor has been called into the Republic of Ireland's U21 squad despite the Dundalk-born player having previously declared for Northern Ireland.
O'Connor played at U18 and U19 level for the south but commented last month that he would be keen to play for the north as his grandmother was born in Belfast.
O'Connor's call-up by new boss Stephen Kenny for a training camp suggests he will stay with the Republic. Crusaders' new signing Ronan Hale has also been retained in the U21 squad.
Former Republic of Ireland midfielder Keith Andrews has joined Kenny's backroom team.
The squad will play a friendly against the Ireland Amateur team at Whitehall Stadium on 6 February, while it was also revealed that the team will take part in the 2019 Toulon Tournament in June.
Republic of Ireland U21 training squad
Goalkeepers: Conor Kearns (UCD), Ross Treacy (Dundalk)
Defenders: Andy Lyons (Bohemians), Darragh Leahy (Bohemians), Conor McCarthy (Cork City), Trevor Clarke (Shamrock Rovers), Liam Scales (UCD), John Mahon (Sligo Rovers)
Midfielders: Dan Mandriou (Bohemians), Aaron Bolger (Shamrock Rovers), JJ Lunney (Waterford), Jamie Lennon (St. Patrick's Athletic), Brandon Kavanagh (Shamrock Rovers), Robbie McCourt (Bohemians)
Forwards: Ronan Hale (Crusaders), Neil Farrugia (UCD), Michael O'Connor (Linfield), Will Fitzgerald (Limerick), Zach Elbouzedi (Waterford), Karl O'Sullivan (Limerick)
Danske Bank Irish Premiership stats
Ballymena United v Ards
A MINOR blip is all it takes to see a gap opening up at the top of the table. Losing to Crusaders and drawing with Dungannon has cost them dearly but Ballymena did bounce back with a win over Glenavon and should bank another three points against rock bottom Ards.
Odds: H:2/7 D:7/2 A:15/2
Cliftonville v Glenavon
THERE'S a bit of fire-fighting required at Solitude after Barry Gray was sacked last week. Former reserve team manager Michael Press steps into the breach as the Reds hope to keep alive their slim Euro chances.
Odds: H:7/5 D:11/5 A:8/5
Coleraine v Dungannon Swifts
THE Bannsiders are still pushing to get into European reckoning while the Swifts have eased their relegation worries by picking up seven points out of the last 12. Coleraine, though, should have too much fire-power here.
Odds: H:1/2 D:11/4 A:9/2
Institute v Crusaders
IN-DEMAND Michael McCrudden's goalscoring ability makes Institute's odds [13/2] look decidedly attractive. Paddy McLaughlin's men will try to frustrate the Crues with their possession game as Stephen Baxter's side look to bounce back from last week's demoralising defeat to Linfield.
Odds: H:13/2 D:3/1 A:1/3
Newry City v Warrenpoint Town
NEWRY City will be hurting from their last two meetings with Warrenpoint where they conceded late equalisers. Mark McCabe and Stephen Hughes are back for the home side. Newry might just end their five-game losing streak against their rivals.
Odds: H:6/4 D:11/5 A:6/4
Prediction: Newry City.