They may only have been there for less than a day, but topping the Northern Irish Premier League table was still an achievement worth celebrating for Glenavon FC.
Back on top
Their 3-0 victory at Newry City FC last Friday evening sent the Lurgan Blues to the summit for the first time in almost exactly a decade, until Crusaders FC reclaimed the lead the following day. It was also a 3-0 away win – at Ballymena United FC – that had put Glenavon top on 9 October 1999, but the ten years in between have been tough for the Mourneview Park outfit.
The board chose to invest heavily in their stadium, making it one of the most modern in Northern Ireland, but the team suffered. They have also had nine different managers this decade, including two spells for Colin Malone. Roy Walker took Glenavon briefly to the top ten seasons ago and his successor Malone led them to a second-place finish in 2002. However, the club suffered relegation in 2004, and although they bounced back at the first attempt, the search for major silverware goes on.
Glenavon became the first non-Belfast side to win the title in 1952 – but have not done so again since 1960 and their last Irish Cup victory was 12 years ago. But maybe current manager Marty Quinn is the man to bring back the glory days. 'Quinner' took Cliftonville FC to the title in 1998, then switched to Coleraine FC in October 1999 and led the Bannsiders to two runners-up finishes in the league and an Irish Cup triumph in 2003.
He moved on to Bangor FC and even took those relegation favourites top of the table at one point before leaving them in February of this year after they decided they would not remain in the top flight for financial reasons. In his short time in charge of Glenavon he has taken them from last place to first, albeit briefly, and commented: "For Glenavon to go top is a very satisfactory situation. It's a bonus for us to be where we're at – I couldn't have asked for any more. My plans were to be clear of the relegation area and, later on in the season, to be approaching the top six."
His side are the division's leading scorers and have kept clean sheets in their last two league games. "Teams going to Lurgan over the years would have been playing a very good footballing side who didn't hurt you, didn't press you too hard physically," Quinn explained. "We're now trying to do that, we're playing with a lot more aggression. Teams won't relish coming to Mourneview Park."
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