Mixing with the best means Mallards are already winners
Believe, says the sign at Ferney Park, the home of Ballinamallard United, whose entry into the Irish Premiership this Saturday has come after many years hard work on and off the pitch.<<
I found it extremely interesting to hear a begrudging Olympics supporter claim that Radio Five Live's celebrations of Team GB's equestrian team winning silver was tantamount to celebrating failure.
In this caller's view, a silver at the greatest show on earth is failure and obviously winning is everything.
That is a particularly strong even jaundiced view but fundamentally is also wrong because it shows no consideration whatsoever for the amount of work that goes into even getting to the Olympics, never mind winning a medal.
Because without progress and development then no athlete can get to the top right from the get go.
Yes, winning is the end goal for very player or team but only the chosen few get to sample success at the very highest level and the rest are competing to make themselves the best they can be.
This approach is one that has served Ballinamallard United well, especially as they now stand on the brink of debuting in the IFA Premiership.
For the best part of 20 years they have set out to be the best that they can be.
A small country club they have emerged through the Fermanagh and Western ranks, through the old Intermediate league into the IFA Championship, finally winning it last year in great style to book their place in the much coveted IFA Premier league.
In so doing, they have become the first team from Fermanagh to compete at the top table of Irish League.
I am sure often on that road, the possibility of competing at the very highest level would have seemed light years away but they persevered, they put in the right youth structures and coaching and started to reap the dividends.
A professional even ruthless outlook led to top class standards and top class players coming through from all over Fermanagh and while the club has enjoyed unparalleled success at youth level, the silverware at first team level was less abundant.
The first team had to slog for many years but while they may not have been winnning trophies, they were winning the battle, they were improving and making progress.
You see, unlike the skewed view of the aforementioned Olympic supporter, winning is not everything.
Ballinamallard enter the new IFA Premiership and realistically have very little chance of winning. But they have every chance of breaking new ground, they have very chance of staying in the league and they have every chance of leading the way for football in this area.
Silverware will not attest to their success at this level. Competitiveness will, player development of young players that have come up through the ranks at the club, and that mixed with a number of outside players will determine not only relative success but his far this adventure can run.
Survival will be the first barometer of success and thereafter the ability to establish the Mallards as a Premierhsip entity season in, season out will be step two.
To this end, the arrival of Dungannon Swifts to the resplendent Ferney Park on Saturday will be significant.
Dungannon have been there done it over the years without again reeling in the trophies. If Ballinamallard have a role model it will be more the Swifts than the Glens and the Mallards will realistically harbour hopes of an opening day win also.
It has oft been said, that the geographical disposition that Fermanagh finds itself in, does not lend itself to young footballers getting the best crack of the whip.
From Saturday we can no longer say that and local players will now have every chance to play at the highest level if they are good enough. So, win lose or draw on Saturday, and indeed throughout the rest of the season, Ballinamallard United should celebrate the fact that they are mixing it with the best. Enjoy the experience and just keep doing what they have done over the past 20 years, being the best they can be.
This article appeared in Impartial Reporter 09 Aug 12