Write off Westport United at your peril, says captain Gary Cunningham. PHOTO: RYAN GALLAGHER

Westport United ready for title charge


WESTPORT United captain Gary Cunningham hopes the lessons for many young players will fuel a title challenge this season.

It has been a transitional period for one of Mayo’s most consistent sides, following the departure of many players who formed the backbone for much league and cup success. Many of their younger stars got their first taste of Super League football last year and Cunningham believes it will stand to them going into this season.

“In a few words, a development season. We had a lot of young lads playing Super League football for the first time. They gained lots of experience and we hope that’ll stand to them this year. You could say we’ve been in transition for the past couple of years. We’re probably still in that phase but hopefully that first year of Super League football will stand to them.”

Additional development will come with the club entering an Under 21 team for the first time, managed by Michael Horan, the manager of the B team in the Premier Division this year.

“We had the C team the last two years and few of those guys came up last year. Those guys should be playing against guys their own age and this should develop them on. Playing on a different night gives them a chance to train and play and them come in with us.”

United’s Super League side are also under new management in the form of former Castlerea Celtic and UCC boss Kevin McNamara following the departures of Dave Hoban, Joe Lawless and Phil Keegan and Cunningham has praised his impact in a short space of time.

“I think he’s been brilliant. He’s a very exciting coach and enthusiastic. He’s just brough a different aspect to the team and the morale of the team has been very good. I’m really looking forward to see him put his stamp on things. It’s early days and it might take a few games to get the way he wants us to play but we’re looking forward to it and hopefully we hit the ground running.”


With players like Dave Hoban and Dessie O’Malley no longer playing, United have found it tough to replace their goalscoring output over the past several seasons. But the return of Ireland underage international Adam Nugent to United, following a stint at Sligo Rovers, was a huge boost and Cunningham believes he can be a driving force this season.

“He’s nearly like an experienced player. He’s been around such a long. He’s an out and out number nine, a goalscorer. It was brilliant to get him back. You wonder if we had him the whole season what might have happened. He’s a great asset to us and should be a driving force this season. He’s an exciting player.

“I suppose it’s what we’ve been missing the last couple of years. We haven’t had the likes of a Dave Hoban of Dessie O’Malley for a couple of years. Adam could be the difference. Brownie is a goalscorer but is more influential in the middle of the park. “

As to what this season brings, Cunningham believes this United side can challenge for the Super League and warns rivals to write them off at their peril.“There’s definitely a title charge in us and our aim is to win the league. it’s what we always go for. We should be there or thereabouts. This league is going to be competitive and teams will take points of each other. You can’t rule Westport out and I think anybody who has in the past has regretted it.”