Ballinamallard United will have a further wait before starting their league campaign following yesterday’s (Wednesday) tightening of restrictions by the NI Executive to curb Covid-19.

At the start of the week, the Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) had set a provisional date of October 24 for the league to begin after an appeal by PSNI regarding relegation last season had been rejected.

However, Championship sides are back in limbo now following yesterday’s announcement, which has put restrictions in place for at least four weeks.

“It’s very deflating to have a date and then see it taken away from you,” said Mallards boss, Harry McConkey.

“In the backdrop of the present climate, we shouldn’t be surprised by the decision, but it is tough to keep lifting players when there is no set date to look forward to,” he said.

McConkey acknowledges that this season is going to be different.

The ongoing Covid-19 situation means that postponements and squad difficulties are likely, with the Mallards having already had a couple of players at the club test positive for Covid-19 in recent weeks, which has left some having to self-isolate – including McConkey himself.

“We’ve seen over the past two weeks the problems that we are going to face if we are going to navigate our way through the season.

“For all organised sport to exist in this environment is extremely complex, but we are a resilient group, and we are determined to try and work our way through it just like so many people in other areas of society,” said McConkey, who expects the season to be a stop-start one.

“There is the possibility of interruptions in fixtures and interruptions in training throughout the season, and the potential of a stop-start season.

“It’s human nature, though, to try and find a way to stay positive and find solutions, as difficult as that can be. It has certainly never been more challenging – this season will be a quite unique season,” he stated.

With that in mind, an unpredictable season could lie ahead and McConkey says that for his players and management team it is just about not looking too far ahead.

“It does worry me that, in a sense, that there are going to be so many uncontrollables.

“Football has always been full of uncontrollables, but I feel this year particularly there are going to be even more.

“You could go to a game one week with a full squad, but then find yourself some days later with a skeleton squad. It is something you can’t anticipate.

“What I have been saying to my players from day one is that we simply deal with the week ahead of us, the days ahead of us, and sometimes, the day ahead, and we work to get the maximum out of the situation we are in,” he explained.

He feels though that he has a squad – on paper, at least – that can be competitive in the league whenever it does get up and running.

“On paper it means absolutely nothing, but you do look at the paper end of it and I know these players and the people I have recruited and they are experienced and have been down many a road in football, while they have also been successful.

“We had a training session a couple of weeks ago where I thought the tempo on the pitch was excellent, and that the players were ready; they were full of enthusiasm and they were in good shape.

“We had a bump in the road since then, but we will try to get back to that feeling as soon as possible with these lads buzzing,” he added.