LARNE secured another point against rivals Carrick on Saturday and they might easily have had all three, so the Inver Reds’ resurgence continues. But rather than claim the credit for the new impetus around the club, manager Graham McConnell has been lavishing praise on his extensive backroom staff.
“I have always given of my best for the club and I’m sure everyone knows that. But I don’t crave the limelight, I just want to get on with the job of restoring some pride in my hometown club. And I am lucky to have such a good bunch of fellas working tirelessly behind the scenes. ”
He went on to outline who does what at Inver Park these days.
“I have, in my opinion, two of the best young coaches around in Marty Rodgers and Jonathan Magill, who is the grandson of Crawford Magill who was a great benefactor of Larne FC back in the good old days as owner of the Highways Hotel.
“And another member of the coaching staff is ex-Larne player and former Coleraine manager Colin O’Neill, who needs no recommendation from me, given his long and varied career in the game.
“That sentiment also applies to Davy McClelland, who is back as goalkeeping coach after six years with Glentoran. He could have had his pick of clubs, but he’s chosen to be at Inver. All our goalkeepers benefit from his coaching ability and that of ex-Larne goalkeeper David Sluman, who shadows Davy.
“I suppose you could say that Jamie McGarel was thrown in at the deep end when he stepped up to be player-manager of the Olympic. And he’s doing very well, taking over the role when Marty and Jonathan stepped up to the coaching roles with the first-team.
“And then there’s Robert McMaster and Gary Morrow who are in charge of the Under-18 team and doing splendidly as well,” said McConnell.
Given the size of his backroom staff, the Times asked him how a club on a very limited budget could afford such a posse.
“It’s not a problem actually because every single one of these guys, and more besides, are working totally voluntarily for the club. “Not once has any of them asked for anything for whatever he does for Larne FC – and I pay tribute to each and everyone of them for that,” replied the boss who felt his team deserved to make it a victorious first derby clash against Carrick as manager.
“Carrick were touted in pre-season by many as title contenders and we have been fighting relegation from the start of the campaign. But that’s now how it appeared on Saturday, because we should probably have won 3-1.
“Five or six weeks ago, going a goal behind against Loughgall and Bangor meant it was game over such was the lack of belief in the players. But, at half-time at Taylor’s Avenue, the players weren’t just talking about pulling the goal back, they were fancying their chances of winning.
“Carrick, who were meant to be a team playing football the way I’d have expected a team under Michael Hughes to play, were resorting to a route-one game and were ahead after big (Sencer) Yilmaz, got on the end of one.
“But we got an equaliser and should have had more goals. We had three one-on-ones and didn’t manage to make them pay.”
Next up for Larne is a tricky enough assignment on Saturday against Wakehurst in the Irish Cup.
“They a team we seem to know as well as most of those in our own division, not least because George Young’s younger brother plays for them.
“We have a few players missing and others who are nursing knocks, so I’ll have to wait until later in the week to see what sort of team we’ll be fielding. And, of course, we do want to win the game, make no mistake about that.
“But we have to select while being mindful that we have a huge match the following week against the team playing the best football in Championship One at the moment, Warrenpoint Town.”