Ballinamallard’s preparation for their third season in the Danske Bank Premiership gets underway with their first two pre-season friendlies this weekend. On Friday night the club welcome Dungannon Swifts in the annual Gary Bownes Memorial Cup before they travel to Dunmurray to take on Derriaghy the following day.

Gary Bownes played for both clubs and every year the match raises money for charity, but this year the managers have decided to amend the format.

“It’s a very important game for both clubs to mark Gary’s memory,” said Ballinamallard manager Whitey Anderson. “Myself and Darren Murphy spoke about it this year and we are going to approach it differently. In the first half we will both put out our own squads and it will be a mixture of young players and first team players. It is an opportunity to bring on some younger players against Premier League opposition, and gives some of the main guys a run out. Then Mark McConkey is getting together the 2002/2003 division two side that won the league with Gary in it, and they are going to play in the second half. Dungannon are doing similar and are getting a lot of Gary’s friends to play in the game. We both felt the game had become too serious in terms of what it should have been. Hopefully it will be a mixture of some good football and it will give the players who played with Gary during his career the opportunity to enjoy themselves and show the camaraderie that existed from the time Gary was playing football, with the proceeds going to a charity of the Bownes family’s choice.” The club will then take two teams to Derriaghy the following day for another pre-season work out as the club progress from pre-season training to friendly matches. “Pre-season has gone very well and we have a lot to get done in the next few weeks,” said Whitey. “Brian Khan and Stevie Feeney have taken charge of all the training for me and have done an excellent job and the players look extremely fit. The next two or three weeks are very important to get their fitness up and get a few games played, and obviously get some shape to the team in terms of how we want to play next season.” With Andy Crawford retiring and Richard Lecky being released at the end of the previous campaign it is all change up front for the Mallards this season, but new signing Anthony Elding has not yet been able to train with his new team. “He was meant to be back training last Thursday but unfortunately he has suffered a family bereavement,” said Whitey. “He is keeping himself in good condition and I am happy enough with him. He has already completed a pre-season with Cork City at the start of the year so I’m not worried about his fitness and when he comes back over he will fit in okay. He will be back training next week.” Danny Keohane’s decision to study in London will leave another hole to be filled in the full back position, so Whitey is still looking at bringing in additional players before the campaign kicks off. “There are still a few things to be sorted out in terms of players signing and we are looking at a few things,” he admitted. “We have to try and fill the spot left by Danny Keohane at left back and we have a few irons in the fire there. Danny is away to university in London and it’s a big loss, we know that. He is a great player and has been a great addition to us. We will just have to see how things develop over the next week or two before we finalise exactly what we have but we are very happy with the way it is shaping up.”