BALLINAMALLARD United Manager Harry McConkey has voiced his frustration at having no confirmed start date for their Bluefin Sport Championship campaign.

The Championship is provisionally due to begin next Saturday, October 17, but an appeal by PSNI on their relegation from the division, which is rumbling on from the end of last season, was only due to be heard on Tuesday night.

“We were hoping this week that we would hear that the league would start, that the PSNI case would be resolved and we could move forward with a definite date, but as I speak to you now that is by no means confirmed,” said McConkey on Tuesday.

“It is a huge frustration, and I think that it affects the team as well.

“I know our numbers at training have been tremendous and the attitude has been great, but I still know that they are crying out for a definite date to get going.

“We are still left in that same place of uncertainty that we were in from May, and clearly this could all have been sorted earlier,” he added.

Preparations though have been continuing for that league kick-off and McConkey was delighted with the way his players bounced back from the disappointment of last Tuesday night’s North West Cup loss to Limavady in their friendly against Linfield at Midgley Park two nights later.

The Mallards struck twice through Josh McIlwaine and Reece Byrne to take a 2-0 lead, before a strong Blues outfit hit back with two penalties to leave it 2-2 at the end.

“We knew coming into that week that we were going to have to juggle the pack and give players game time and switch things around.

“Unfortunately, Tuesday night didn’t pay off for us, and we were disappointed with that, but it was refreshing to go to Linfield and to play the way we did. We set up with a 3-5-2, and it worked really well for us.

“We were 2-0 up, having already had two excellent penalty claims, but there was no doubt that they were still dangerous on the counter and from setpieces.


“We were delighted with how much we put them on the back foot and caused them problems, but it was more the general tempo, intensity and accuracy of our play that was just such a contrast from Tuesday night. That was very pleasing,” he said.

The game sprung into life in the second half as the Mallards took the lead.

Richard Clarke played a defence-splitting pass to Josh McIlwaine, who hit a low hard strike from 25 yards into the bottom corner.

And it was 2-0 minutes later as Sam Robb picked up possession wide on the right and pulled a super ball back to the edge of the box for the excellent Reece Byrne to sweep home.

Linfield hit back to level through two penalties, but the Mallards stood firm after this to hold on for the draw.

“Everybody got valuable game time against a quality opposition and we introduced 16-year-old Daniel Gilmore in goals for the last 15 minutes, and Alex Holder got back on the pitch, which was brilliant.”

With Ballinamallard having suspended activities at their training and playing facilities due to two players testing positive for Covid-19, it has thrown this week’s friendly game against Coleraine into doubt.

“We were looking forward to building on the Linfield game with a trip to Coleraine, but that may be in doubt.

“But, if the Linfield game is our last pre-season one, then we finished on a real high, and to do it against such a good opposition – who had all their big names there – was pleasing.

“I know that people talk about pre-season not meaning anything in terms of results – and I agree with that – but the level of performances is what I was really delighted with.”

The Ducks boss also put the finishing touches to his squad by nailing down youngster Micheál Glynn – a bit of business that has pleased him.


“We had planned to meet last week but with all that is going on, I had to hold that chat with Micheál on Zoom at the weekend, and in that chat it was quite clear that he was determined to give it a real go this year with ourselves.

“We are delighted with that, because he is a player of real quality and it gives us cover in most areas of the pitch now.

“What we have on paper in terms of our squad looks good but they have to go out and show that.

“I do think that there was great signs in both games that we have a great bunch of lads to address the league challenge, but they all know that there will be great competition for places and we hope that has the desired affect and we get the most out of everybody involved,” he said.