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Weekly marks football ‘fairytale’ with first front page wrap in eight years

A weekly newspaper celebrated a football “fairytale” by publishing its first front page wraparound in eight years.

The Newry Democrat marked Newry City AFC reaching Northern Ireland’s top division, just five years after the club was formed, with extensive print coverage of the triumph.

HTFP reported earlier this month how the Democrat had run a Star Wars-themed back page, depicting City manager Darren Mullen as a Jedi Knight, ahead of the club’s vital promotion playoff match on 4 May – a date synonymous with the sci-fi film franchise.

City was founded as a phoenix club in 2013, after its previous incarnation Newry City FC was wound up the previous year.

The Democrat is now encouraging readers to get behind City, or nearby club Warrenpoint Town, in the forthcoming 2018/19 NIFL Premiership season.

Newry wrap

Editor Michael Scott told HTFP: “We decided to do a wraparound as Newry City’s promotion to the NIFL Premiership is one of the fairytale stories of the Irish League in recent years. From being on the brink of extinction five years ago to being promoted to the top flight of local football is an amazing achievement and we felt we had to do something to mark it.

“Our deputy editor, Ralph Hewitt, and I had discussed doing the wraparound when Newry reached the play-off final, and when they won the first leg we started to put the wheels in motion in preparation for City going up.

“When the final whistle blew last Wednesday night and Newry’s place in the Premiership was secured, we were finally able to progress our plans. We had spoken to our sports reporter, Tony Bagnall, about our plans and he took the three images we have used.”

This was the first time the Democrat had attempted a wraparound since 2010, when County Down’s gaelic footballers reached the All-Ireland final.

It was also the first time that such a cover has been attempted by any Alpha Media Group paper since the company introduced its new “state-of-the-art” production system last year.

Michael added: “The coverage in our bumper 80-page edition included congratulations from local councillors and the area’s MP, plus a two-page in-depth interview with manager Darren Mullen which looks back over a historic five years and, of course, a report from the 3-1 second leg victory.

“Newry City now join our other local senior team, Warrenpoint Town in the Premiership. We have used this week’s celebratory edition to encourage football fans to get out next season and support both of our top flight sides.

“Plans are now well underway for our coverage of what promises to be an exciting 2018/19 season.”