Football: McIlroy marvels at `greatest achievement'

GM Vauxhall Conference
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Sammy McIlroy had many great days around the world with Manchester United and Northern Ireland, but on Saturday he said that none could compare with the experience he had just enjoyed at Kettering Town's Rockingham Road ground.

After his Macclesfield Town side had beaten Kettering 4-1 to win the GM Vauxhall Conference championship and with it promotion to the Third Division, McIlroy said: "I've played in World Cup finals and FA Cup finals at Wembley, but this has got to be my greatest achievement and proudest moment in football."

Macclesfield won the Conference title for the second time in three seasons - the Cheshire club were denied promotion in 1995 because their ground failed to meet League standards - thanks to a sequence of 16 victories in their last 19 matches.

Kidderminster Harriers, the leaders in the early part of the season, kept up a dogged pursuit of Macclesfield and still had a chance of the title going into the final day, although they lost 3-1 at Gateshead on Saturday.

Earlier in the afternoon a wholly different outcome had seemed possible as Kettering went into an early lead. However, Macclesfield, backed by around 2,000 of their own fans, responded with four goals before half- time, including a hat-trick by 21-year-old Chris Byrne. The other goal was scored by a player 14 years his senior, the former Manchester United and Nottingham Forest striker Peter Davenport.

"We needed the kick-start that Kettering's early goal gave us but after that I felt we were always on top and thoroughly deserved our goals," McIlroy said.

"I'm so proud of the way the players remained disciplined and stuck to their task. They've made my job that much easier. We're promoted and up in the League on merit. Now let's hope we can all take this club further."