Ballinamallard manager Harry McConkey has insisted that his team will give everything on Saturday against Dundela, despite their rescheduled Irish Cup tie against Carrick Rangers taking place only two days later.

A snow covered Ferney Park forced the postponement of the original cup game, but despite a place in the quarter final of the competition within their sights the manager has refused to compromise on their league form.

“The only way I know how to work is to live and breath by the 90 minutes in front of you,” said Harry.

“You cannot look too far ahead and we will not be making any selection decisions because we have Carrick on the Monday. Our status in this league is the most important thing and we have done very well to get where we are, but we are not happy with sixth and it would be wrong of us to be happy with that. We need to keep pushing the players on and stretching them. For me the Irish Cup is a bonus for us and I would dearly love to get through but not at the expense of the league.

A UEFA stipulation that no Irish Cup games can clash with Champions League games has meant the Mallards must play on Monday, and with two crunch games in quick succession Harry knows his squad will be stretched to its limits. “The squad will be tested over those couple of days, and with a few key players carrying a few knocks we can’t afford to pick up any more before next Monday,” he admitted. “It seems ridiculous that because of the Champions League we have to play on a Monday. One day recovery is not enough but that is the way it is.”

Having missed out the match on Saturday, Ballinamallard got some additional match practice in on Tuesday night when they welcomed Derry City to Ferney Park. The League of Ireland team are in the midst of their pre-season preparations, and they ran out comfortable 7-0 winners on the night. The Mallards used the match to play some of the fringe players, with a mixture of youth and experience among the 24 players used on the night. Sixteen year olds Henry Miskimmon and Darragh Byrne both made their first team debuts, and Harry was delighted with the run out.

“I thought it was a great exercise for us,” he said. “It was about letting the youngsters at the club know that we care about them, as well as getting the senior pros out who haven’t got as much game time. I don’t think you can put a price on that, and the score line was always going to be irrelevant. We got goalkeepers Josh Brownlee and Stefan (McCusker) game time and they were well and truly tested. Henry Miskimmon made his debut and Darragh Byrne was superb as well. It was good to see Jacob Britton back in the first team and Conor Rippey who hasn’t been in much since preseason. The game tonight was a reward for those players who have stuck with us and been invaluable in terms of our preparation for matches. Also for people like Dwayne McManus who has had a terrible time with injuries, and Chris Kelly who hasn’t been getting a lot of game time.”

Harry knows some of the fringe players who featured may be required for their upcoming double header, with several first team regulars struggling. Ryan O’Reilly is the main doubt for Saturday’s match against Dundela with a back problem, and Dwayne McManus and Gary Henderson also picked up minor knocks on Tuesday night, although the manager is hopeful they can shake them off before the weekend. Daragh McBrien and Michael Glynn are ruled out for two weeks due to McRory Cup duties with their school, while Sean McAvoy may be able to play on Saturday before he leaves for Spain with the FAI Under 17 squad.

Ballinamallard’s last visit to Dundela finished in a 3-2 defeat after they had taken an early lead, and the manager knows it will be another tough test on a tricky pitch. “We ended up on the end of a 3-2 defeat when we should have at least had a point,” recalled Harry. They have had a bit of a rocky time since that but on their day we know that they are a real threat. They are strong up top but

could be exposed at the back. They know how to play on that pitch which is not always conducive to good football, so it will be another very tough challenge but we want to go and face it.”

Two days later Carrick come to Fermanagh, with a quarter final trip to either Glenavon or Dungannon Swifts awaiting the winner. The rescheduling to a weekday may play into the Mallards hands, but the manager is more focussed on the performance of his own players. “I think Carrick were delighted the match was off on Saturday because they had a couple of players suspended who will now be back for Monday night,” he revealed, “but just as we went to Ballyclare on a Friday night and it wasn’t conducive for preparation for a game, Carrick will have to do the same. I’m not sure if they will be able to get their players out of work and get down in time for a good match preparation but either way it doesn’t really worry me about how they are feeling. It’s all about us and how we are feeling and hopefully we can get the result we are after.”