Football/Soccer

Crusaders new signing Darren Murray says Warrenpoint Town saved his career

Darren Murray, seen here playing for Portadown, has got his career back on track again and hopes to help Crusaders secure the league title this season

CRUSADERS' new star signing Darren ‘Doozle' Murray has paid a heartfelt tribute to Warrenpoint Town boss Matthew Tipton and his backroom staff for saving his career.

The Crues finally secured the services of Murray a few hours before Wednesday night's transfer deadline after initial interest from league championship rivals Coleraine.

The New Lodge Road man says he will never forget the last few days after becoming a father for the first time on Sunday and then signing for league leaders Crusaders.

Murray has been literally propelled from near the bottom of the league to the top in a few frantic hours on Wednesday.

But the 26-year-old striker won't forget the faith Warrenpoint Town showed in him after he was released by Cliftonville last season.

After a spell with Amateur League club Crumlin Star, Warrenpoint came knocking to sign him.

“Warrenpoint got a great deal because you have to remember they got me for nothing,” said Murray, “but they gave me my chance when no other team would look at me. Warrenpoint has really helped me and got my career back on track.

“That period in Warrenpoint taught me that I belong at the top level in Northern Ireland. It taught me how much I love football. I had a smile back on my face at Warrenpoint. I loved training and playing down there and ‘Tippy' [Matthew Tipton] and the backroom staff were brilliant with me.

“‘Tippy' is a nice fella, we got along, we just clicked. He was a striker himself and he was able to get the best out of me. He knew I would pay him back with goals.

“When I was playing for Crumlin Star – no disrespect to the Amateur League because there are some great players and great teams – but I realised I needed to be playing at a higher level again. And it was Warrenpoint who came to me and give me an opportunity...”

Murray scored 12 goals in 18 appearances for ‘Point and given his excellent form, it was no surprise when a couple of top clubs came calling.

Murray, who is cup-tied for today's Irish Cup showdown between the Crues and Cliftonville at Solitude, admitted that he thought the mooted move was “dead in the water”.

“I went to training with Warrenpoint Point on Tuesday night. ‘Tippy' had me in all his plans for next Tuesday night's game against Linfield, so I think he was surprised as anybody when the board got a call from Crusaders to say the bid was accepted.

“I got two phone calls in the space of three or four minutes – one was from ‘Tippy' and the other was from Stephen [Baxter]. It was nine o'clock on Wednesday night and it was tight to get it done.

“I wanted the best outcome for me and my family – and I'm just delighted to get it over and done with.”

With a possible league winner's medal on the table, Murray wants to win as much as he can over the next few seasons at Seaview.

“I'm 26 now and I don't want to be one of those strikers that scored loads of goals but didn't win anything. I feel there's another six good years left in me and I want to win as much as I can and score as many goals as I can.

“Crusaders have [Paul] Heatley, [Gavin] Whyte, [Declan] Caddell, Jordan Owens – the talent is frightening – and they're probably creating 20 chances per game. I just need to put myself in the box and the ball is going to be there.”

Murray enjoyed some feisty battles against Crusaders but knows he will be welcomed with open arms at Seaview.

“When you're winning and you're at the top everyone hates you – and I was no different. Now that they are my team-mates, they will be my best mates.

“I spoke to my cousin Martin [Donnelly] and he said you'll never be at a club like it. It's a family club – and they look after you.”

Irish Cup stats

Ballyclare Comrades v Glentoran

THE Glens haven't won in their last three league games and they could find life difficult against Ballyclare but that extra bit of quality should see the Premier League side through.

Odds: H:11/4 D:15/8 A:1/1

Prediction: Glentoran

Ballymena United v Ballinamallard

THE 'Mallards will want to build on their 6-4 win over Cliftonville recently but the Braidmen have special affection for the Irish Cup and should progress on home ground.

Odds: H:4/11 D:10/3 A:5/1

Prediction:

Cliftonville v Crusaders

THE tie of the round. With the Reds hurting from recent defeats to their north Belfast neighbours, the smart money is still on the Crues to come through what promises to be a bruising encounter.

Odds: H:23/10 D:12/5 A:10/11

Prediction: Crusaders

Coleraine v Institute

THE Bannsiders will be hungry to get back to a second consecutive Irish Cup final and should be too strong for Paddy McLaughlin's high-flying 'Stute.

Odds: H:2/9 D:4/1 A:17/2

Prediction:

Glenavon v Dungannon

THE Swifts reached the League Cup final in midweek and their extra-time exertions might be their undoing against the free-scoring Lurgan Blues.

Odds: H:4/11 D:16/5 A:11/2

Prediction: Glenavon

Larne v Dundela

DUNDELA are top of the Premier Intermediate while Larne are sitting mid-table in the division above them. Larne have the quality to progress here.

Odds: H:1/4 D:4/1 A:13/2

Prediction:

Linfield v Newry

NEWRY have come a long way under the leadership of manager Darren Mullen. How they fare in the the first 20 minutes at Windsor today will be telling.

Odds: H:1/10 D:7/1 A:13/1

Prediction: Linfield

Loughgall v Ards

ARDS have done reasonably well in their return to the top flight and they should expect to go deeper into the Irish Cup against a decent Loughgall side.

Odds: H:7/2 D:15/8 A:5/6

Prediction: Ards

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