McConnell ready for Larne challenge

Larne caretaker manager Graham McConnell. Photo: Peter Rippon
Larne caretaker manager Graham McConnell. Photo: Peter Rippon

Graham McConnell was appointed caretaker boss of Larne Football Club on Sunday after the the board took the unanimous decision to sack Tommy Kincaid following Saturday’s 6-0 defeat to Ards in the Steel and Sons Cup, writes Kevin Hughes.

McConnell said he was shocked as anybody when Tommy Kincaid was sacked and has said he would have walked in support of the dismissed boss - had Kincaid brought him to the club!

“When Mervyn McKay and myself had met with Tommy Kincaid and Neil Candlish to discuss the possibility of me taking over as manager of the Olympic team, Tommy said he didn’t want to appoint me since he feared I might move on if offered another job, say maybe three months later,” explained the former club goalkeeper.

“Tommy said, however, that he would have no problem with the board appointing me to the post. But, make no mistake about it, had it been Tommy who asked me to be part of the club management, I would have been out the door with him on Saturday through loyalty.”

McConnell also refuted any suggestion that he knew in advance that Kincaid was being sacked.

“I never expected it for one minute. In fact, I was talking to Tommy a couple of weeks ago and I assured him that there was no chance of Larne sacking him this early in the season because of poor results, especially since Paul Millar had gone though a very poor spell and wasn’t sacked.”

Given that he has been manager of the club a couple of times before, and is a self-confessed Larne fanatic, McConnell was the obvious man for the board to turn to when they needed someone to take charge after they showed the door to Kincaid.

But, since he had applied for the job, and was overlooked twice for it when the club appointed Sammy Workman and then approached Kincaid, did he have any doubts about stepping into the breach?

“No! My feelings for this club are well documented and you have to take it on the chin when you apply for any post and the board in question believe somebody else is their choice. So that doesn’t annoy me in the least,” assured McConnell, who was given no time restriction when asked to take on the caretaker role.

“The board needed someone to come in and try to steady the ship and they feel that is something I can do and I am happy to take up the challenge.

“There’s no time span on it. It could be days, weeks or months. That was not discussed and it’s not important to me. I just want to do what I can to restore some stability and get the Larne team back on track.

“Everybody knows there’s a lot of talk about a possible exodus of players. I have spoken to some by telephone and others in person, while some more have received text messages indicating slight changes to the training schedule so that we can have a chat about the situation.

“It’s Monday at tea-time as we speak, and I only know of one player who is definitely going and that’s Christopher Keenan, the goalkeeper.

“My position is very clear. I want every player to remain on board and I will be telling them that. However, I only want players who are committed and, if that means I will have to bring into the team some of the excellent young players who are lining out with the Olympic or the U18s, then that’s what I will do.

“I can assure everybody that I will be fielding 11 players who are totally committed to the cause when we go out against Dundela in the league on Saturday.”