Boyle and Warrenpoint preparing themselves for another 'game of inches' against All-Ireland champions Kilcoo

Warrenpoint's John Boyle was the shootout hero against Loughinisland but has warned supporters to temper their expectations ahead of another final clash with Kilcoo this Sunday Picture: Philip Walsh
Shaun Mahoney

WARRENPOINT are not underestimating the task they face when they take on defending All-Ireland champions Kilcoo in Sunday's final.

The challenge has been arguably made even more difficult with the news that full-back Adam Lynch and goalkeeper Gary McMahon will join former county men Ryan McAleenan and Ross McGarry in the treatment room.

The plan is to stick with the Magpies in the game for as long as possible and after the semi-final penalty drama victory against Loughinisland, the Seasiders have grown in confidence.

Warrenpoint are the last team in the county to beat Kilcoo in the Down club championship in 2019.

The subsequently lost in the final by a point, they also defeated Burren that year and weren't given much of chance of doing likewise against Jim McCorry's men last month.

But there has been sea-change in opinions of late and John Boyle, who was the unlikely shootout hero against the 'Island, is wary of supporters' expectations.

“Two hours of football ago, you'd have walked down the town, and everyone was nearly laughing at us coming up against Burren,” Boyle said.

“I'm very much aware that in two games of football, it can be very fickle and we were a width of a post away from getting more flack for getting beat by Loughinisland, who are a really good team.

“But because we beat Burren, the expectation was to go on then and beat Loughinisland handy. If anyone is getting carried away, they really need to cool the jets.

“Again, coming into this one there's no more humbling feeling than trying to take on Kilcoo who have been the architects of our downfall for the last five, six, seven, eight years that we've played them,

“We've had a couple of really tight battles, they've got one over us a few times, so to go in thinking you're anything above your station, you'll not be long getting kicked back down to earth.”

There are few calmer heads in football as John Boyle. An experienced campaigner, he was the player that picked up the gloves after McMahon injured his shoulder, saved a penalty and then scored all his spot-kick.

Boyle, it seems doesn't do pressure, but he insists that being involved in taking penalties is much better than looking through his fingers on the pitch.

“I think it's easier being in it than watching. I broke my wrist at the start of the year and was watching,” said Boyle.

“When you're not in control it's nerve-wrecking. With penalties there's no point in saying someone is good, bad, or indifferent at it. We've been lucky in three penalty shootouts and that's probably what I can put it down to. For me you hope that there's a couple of people above calling in huge favours.”

Boyle has Irish Premiership experience with Warrenpoint Town and he helped Newry City win promotion back to the top flight last season before joining Bangor in the Championship this season but he denies that playing soccer is any advantage when it comes to penalties.

“People have claimed because everyone plays soccer here but I think all of the teams have had a penalty to beat us,” Boyle said.

“So, I don't think soccer has anything to do with it. For most of the boys it's five-a-side soccer they're used to. Penalties is just luck of the draw as far as I'm concerned.

“Rory Mason hit the post and it was a good penalty, that's the inches I'm talking about. Half an inch either side and they could have won so is it luck, fate, is it skill? There's wiser people than me that would know better.

“Of course, it was drama for everyone watching but it's probably easier being in the middle of it.”

While Kilcoo are chasing their 11th senior club title since 2009 and 20th overall as well as being defending Ulster and All-Ireland champions, the seaside club are aiming for their fourth senior football trophy in almost 70 years.

Warrenpoint have won the Down senior title on three previous occasions, the last was in 1953, when they defeated rivals Burren 1-0 to 0-1. The first was 10 years earlier when they beat Bryansford 3-3 to 1-03 and then repeated the feat in 1948 with a 4-1 to 1-5 victory over Sunday's opponents Kilcoo.

Warrenpoint are massive underdogs on Sunday but their players are prepared to give everything to succeed and experienced campaigner Boyle is keen to play his part.

“I suppose sport in general, you're only as good as your last game so that game [Loughinisland win] has been parked a long time ago, as soon as the final whistle goes,” said Boyle.

“The next game might be my last game and that'll be the one that I'll be judged on for the next four or five months, the rest of your life probably because it's been such a long time since we won a championship.

“The next one will be the one that people will talk about, it won't be anything that's gone on before.”