Newry City manager Darren Mullen has commended his team for “handling the pressure well” as they secured promotion back to the Irish Premiership by beating Dergview 6-1 on Saturday.
The win saw them pick up the Championship title with six points to spare over runners-up Annagh United.
“It’s a tough league and it’s been a tough season. It was a case of winning it by any means,” said Mullen.
“To win it in front of our own fans on the final day was very special.”
“We have a good mix of young players with their youthful energy and experienced older heads and the scenes on Saturday make it all worthwhile.”
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‘We aim to learn from experience’
Newry established themselves as frontrunners from the start of the campaign and although their form dipped towards the end of the season they did enough to get over the line.
Their next target will be to preserve their Premiership status against teams with much larger budgets next term.
“We got off to a good start but we were prepared for times where we maybe did not do so well. We were one of the favourites for this league and a big scalp for other teams to take.
“The league title was the one we wanted – it is a good club and we have a good group so it was just reward.
“Teams that are promoted are always among the favourites to come down and although the money coming into the game is good for the league the gulf between the top sides and the others is widening.
“It’s going to be difficult but we will look at our finances and our priority will be to stay in the top division.
“We will aim to learn from the experience gained from the last time we were in the top flight and will have our own targets.
“We have a good squad at the moment so we will hold onto the vast majority and try to add to it.”
‘Good for the area to have a derby’
While Newry are moving back to the Premiership, derby rivals Warrenpoint Town find themselves going in the opposite direction after being automatically relegated as the bottom club in the league.
“It’s good for the league and for the area to have that local derby so we’re disappointed that will not happen next season.
“There is a healthy rivalry and mutual respect between the clubs so hopefully we can keep our place in the top flight and Warrenpoint can come up again.”
The Championship winners lost 1-0 to Ballymena United in their recent Irish Cup semi-final at Mourneview Park after being reinstated to the competition following the exclusion of Glentoran for fielding an ineligible player.
“There wasn’t a lot of quality in the game and the pitch didn’t help either side but it was a super free-kick by Steven McCullough to win it.
“It gave us a gauge of where we were in relation to a Premiership side and from that respect we can take a lot of heart from it. We know we are able to compete.”