Boyle’s balancing act

Gary Boyle is juggling his role as Newry City manager with lending a hand to Warrenpoint’s Gaelic footballers, Shaun Casey reports…

THE Down club championship gets up and running this weekend and for Warrenpoint native Gary Boyle, life couldn’t be much busier at the moment.

Boyle took over as Newry City boss when Darren Mullen stepped away at the end of last season, and those soccer commitments take up most of his time.

But when Warrenpoint came calling for some matchday assistance, Boyle, who helped Warrenpoint claim an Ulster Intermediate Club title back in 2014, jumped at the opportunity.

It’s not new ground for the former forward either. Boyle has been heavily involved in the coaching staff for the past seven years, as Warrenpoint reached two county finals, but the dominance of Down kingpins Kilcoo have proven their downfall.

Newry City is Boyle’s main focus at the minute but when his brother John, Warrenpoint’s player-manager, is on the field of play, Gary offers a helping hand on matchday.

“Newry is the priority and that’s why I couldn’t take on a permanent role with Warrenpoint,” said Boyle. “I’ve been with them for the last seven seasons, and it’s been difficult, but Newry is the main focus and the Gaelic, I’m there if and when needed and if and when I can be there.

“I had taken Warrenpoint training previously, but I suppose over the last six weeks John has really been leading it and it’s been more of a matchday situation for myself.

“Obviously with my own commitment to Newry and with my wife Kelly being heavily pregnant, I couldn’t be out of the house every night of the week. I’m with Warrenpoint on matchday when John is likely to be playing, I’m just in as an extra set of eyes and ears.”

Football is in the Boyle blood and growing up it was all about the round ball, whether that be a soccer ball or a Gaelic one. And as the lads turned into adults, things didn’t change much and most of their time is spent either on the field or thinking about it.

“We’re a typical football family,” insisted Boyle. “We talk both sports to death anyway so there’s a lot of conversations around football and around Warrenpoint and around Newry, John’s playing soccer for Warrenpoint as well.

“We tend to bounce off each other quite a lot about a lot of things and it’s only natural then that if he needs a dig out, we’d be like-minded, so I can step into the breach for him to allow him to fully concentrate on playing.

“We’ve always tried to manage the two sports as best as we could. It’s difficult and it’s not without its trials and tribulations but in terms of myself, I’d been involved as part of the coaching team under the last two management set ups and coaching along with Newry.

“But I think the step up from coaching to management is not to be underestimated. That’s why I felt I couldn’t do either role justice if I was totally going between the two. If I can and if I’m needed, I’ll certainly help out with Warrenpoint as much as I can.”

Jumping between Gaelic games and the groundball is nothing new, of course. A number of high-profile names have competed at inter-county level and displayed their talents in the Irish League as well.

Last year, Jamie Clarke caught the headlines as the former Armagh sharpshooter signed up as a new recruit with Newry City and made a number of appearances.

Club commitments with Crossmaglen put an end to that trial this year, and a number of others within the Newry squad have tried to strike the balance between the two sports over the last few years.

“It was one of the questions that I was asked when I was taking the job on,” said Boyle of playing two codes. “I’m not in the business of telling boys they can’t play Gaelic; I’ve done it myself. Newry, although they’re professional players, is a part-time role.

“I don’t think we’re in a position where we can ensure that players don’t play Gaelic or even ask them not to because I think from that perspective, you’re fighting a losing battle.

“To be fair to the Gaelic players, I think some of the mentality and some of the characteristics come out well in the soccer. It’s not just in Newry, it happens throughout the Irish League.

“You have Eoin Bradley who has done it for years and you have Jamie Doran there at Glenavon who got man of the match for the Down u-20s in the Ulster final and then got man of the match against Newry City and scored the winner the following Saturday.

“It’s up to the players and their welfare but if the players are happy to do it, we have to manage them as best we can, but I don’t think you’ll ever be in a position to say to one of them that they’re not allowed to play.

“We have a couple that play both but the group that we have now, soccer is their priority, and they play Gaelic more so in the off season. That’s difficult come the club championship but once there’s open and honest communication with the players, we’ll be able to deal with it.

“But if there’s ever a clash of fixtures, I think that the players that we have at the minute would go to Newry ahead of their Gaelic clubs.”

Things have been hectic in the Boyle household this year and they’ve added another member to the family recently, with baby boy Beau coming along last week.

“It’s a good busy, and I have a very accommodating wife,” laughed Boyle. “Family takes precedence over everything really and we’ve had a bit of tragedy in our own lives with children so it’s a blessing that we have two healthy wee ones at home with us now.

“Our other child will be two on the 6th of September so she’s very active and keeps us on our toes. They met each other for the first time last Thursday and she’s killing him with kindness at the minute.

“It’s great and it’s what we all want is to have a happy family at home and use football then, as irritating or as much as it might drive you mad, football is a great release from the normal day to day.”

The Down championship kicks into gear this weekend and for Warrenpoint, last year’s beaten finalists. They take on the daunting challenge of Burren who, with the emergence of a number of exceptional youngsters, are one of the favourites for the Frank O’Hare Cup.

Injuries and players off travelling have perhaps deflated Warrenpoint’s own championship ambitions, but they still have enough in the tank to give it a real go. “The boys have been super over the last six or seven years,” added Boyle.

“It’s just really unfortunate for the group that we never had our full complement to go into those crunch games, we’ve always been missing one or two key individuals.

“That probably adds to the hard luck story. But come championship, I know the lads will be raring and ready to go. We’ve had a bit of an up and down league campaign which was to be expected with those unavailable and injuries and things like that.

“But the group will be coming back together now for championship time and we’re hoping that we can get that group blended in together with a couple of younger lads that have made the step up in their absence and give it a good rattle again.

“The Burren game will be a massive test and they’re one of the teams that everybody has been talking about in terms of up-and-coming. We were in the same situation last year and we managed to get a really positive result.

“Add to it that it’s our neighbours and it’s a local derby so to speak. Burren will go into the game as favourites, and we have no problem being underdogs and we’ll thrive in that position.We’ll be ready and we’ll be more than a match for them.”

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