James McKenna picks three memorable games he was involved in including two matches for Ballinamallard against Cliftonville and a league title success with Enniskillen Town.

Tuesday April 26, 2005 - Mercer League

Killen Rangers 0 Enniskillen Town 1

THIS was the day that Town clinched their first ever league title and it was just special to be part of that winning team. 
It was my first real experience of adult football, where you were really a part of it, and I remember Kesh had run us all the way that season with Jones and Noble, and we had some great battles with them. 
I just remember that the league came down to the last game and we were away to Killen on a Tuesday night.
Back then, teams could strengthen with players from other clubs at a higher level, and Killen would have been a club that were able to take advantage of that.
You were apprehensive going there, not knowing what sort of team you were going to come up against – it certainly wasn’t going to be Killen’s team that played week in, week out in the league.
It wasn’t a memorable game in terms of highlights or anything else; you could feel the nerves all throughout the team, and we didn’t play our best football on the night.
I recall there was a packed crowd on both sides of the pitch, and the whole Kesh team was there, and we needed to win to clinch it or a draw to send it to a play-off.
We had been pretty defensively solid that year with Rory and myself at centre back, and you had Brendy (Rogers) then in the middle, who always gave good cover, so we always felt that we would keep clean sheets in that period.
It was a case then of if we could come up with a goal and, thankfully, Ronan McCabe came up with the goods.
I remember they had big Paddy Morrison in goals, who I went on to play with at Ballinamallard and he made some great saves, and you thought maybe it wasn’t going to be our night.
But, we got the goal in the first half. I remember Skino (Mark Connolly) going through and Paddy made the save, but it rebounded to Rocket (Ronan McCabe) and he tucked it away.
The feeling when that goal went in was unbelievable, and we were able to see it out for the 1-0 win.
People had followed the Town for 30 or 35 years, and it meant so much to them.
Obviously, for me, it was a brilliant feeling and one you could never replace, but for the likes of the McClintocks, Gerry Connolly and John Illand – people that had been the core of the club their whole lives – to see what it meant to them ... that was something that will always live with me.
That game is one of my best football memories.
That was the first of five in a row, and it was a big thing for that group to get the first one over the line.
When I look back at that five-year period with the Town, you had the first league, which was massive, and you had the Junior Cup in 2007, when again we were defensively solid, and to have scored that day was a big thing. I’ll never forget the scenes when we came back to Enniskillen after it. 
There was also the Mulhern Cup final in 2008 which was my final game before I left to go to Ballinamallard.
I had a stinker that day, against big Gareth McCrory, and we were 2-0 down but we came back and then I got the winner. That was a great way to sign off with Town.
These were all great memories with the Town, but that win in Killen is the win that sticks out the most.

Saturday September 8, 2012 - Danske Bank Premiership

Cliftonville 0 Ballinamallard Utd 1

THIS, again, was not a classic game and will not live long in people’s memories – but I thought it was a huge win for us early on in our first season in the Premiership, and was the springboard for us to go on and have the success we had that season. 
Cliftonville went on to romp the league that year; they were a brilliant team, and while they were maybe not a joy to play against, they were a joy to watch. 
You had Catney and Johnston in the middle of the field, who probably didn’t get near enough credit for what good footballers they were.
I was never as good as those two boys, but I relished playing against them, as they were what you would want to be. 
And the two boys up front then for them were frightening, in Boyce and Gormley.
As I say, it was our first year in the Premiership, and I don’t think Cliftonville lost any other games at home that season, but I remember going up there and we maybe brought only about 30 people up to it.
But the noise they made was unbelievable, they never stopped the whole game, which was a theme that season wherever we went to.
We weathered a lot of pressure that day, and Alvin saved us a number of times in the game, and you had Leon Carters and Mark Stafford at the back who headed balls away all day.
I was playing in the middle of the park with Davy Kee, and we made big tackles throughout, and because I love that side of the game, that’s why this game stands out for me.
At times, it was backs to the wall, but Whitey had us so organised at that time and we worked, and we worked.
No matter how much pressure we were under, we always had an outlet, too, with Chrissie Curran on the right. 
It was still 0-0 going into the last minute, and there was an outrageous bit of skill by Liam Martin who got the ball down the side, and he absolutely roasted their right back before cutting it back to Jay McCartney, who fired it in off the post to grab the win.
Again, this was just an unreal feeling, and we knew – having gone there and got the win – that we had nothing to fear going anywhere in the league.
We went on that season, and had a couple of wins at Windsor Park, and that came from the belief of having beaten Cliftonville at Solitude.
We went to Coleraine, and we won, and to Glenavon, and we won.
It showed us we could go anywhere if we trusted the principles and the way we were set up.
We were defensively strong, with Leon and Stafford, and in the middle we had quality, and then we had the likes of Andy Crawford, Chrissie or Rocket, who could go on and win the match for you.

Friday October 26, 2018, Danske Bank Premiership

Ballinamallard Utd 6 Cliftonville 4

IN MY opinion, this was the best game that there has been at Ballinamallard.
This was a crazy, crazy game but [memories of] it are tinged with a bit of sadness because, ultimately, we were relegated at the end of the season, which was my last one at the club.
It was the end of January, I had only come back a few weeks after breaking my collarbone in the first game of the season and, if I’m honest, I was off the pace and we were struggling badly in the league.
Gavin Dykes had brought a few players in that month to help the group.
He brought big O’Flynn back because we needed somebody to hold the ball up and bring the rest of the team into play, and he made a difference, and Sean Noble joined us and gave us a wee bit more pace in the final third.
Ryan Curran put us 1-0 up with a great volley to the top corner, which probably did him no harm as he went on to sign for Cliftonville, and O’Flynn then slipped Sean Noble through, and he put us 2-0 up.

The shot in the arm we needed
It was the shot in the arm we needed because if we didn’t get the season going, we were going to end up relegated before St. Paddy’s weekend.
Jay Donnelly hit back with a goal for them to make it 2-1, and this was all inside 20 minutes.
Big O’Flynn made it 3-1 after half an hour and the place was starting to rock!
People had watched a lot of dire football for six months, but the support that night was massive, and games under the lights at Ballinamallard were always special anyway as the atmosphere was up a notch or two.
We went in 3-1 up, but we had conceded a lot of goals that year and you never felt you were secure with the likes of Joe Gormley and Jay Donnelly up the other end.
At the start of the second half, though, Ryan Curran converted a penalty for 4-1, and [with that kind of shift in the game] you are starting to believe, and at that stage the place is electric.
You’d just think then that “you need to be stable” but then they got a goal back five minutes later, and Gormley then scored to make it 4-3, and the doubts were starting to creep in again.
I got a rare one from outside the box to make it 5-3, and you’d think “the game has swung again”, but four minutes later Gormley went up the other end to make it 5-4.
By then, you’d think that with 15 minutes left in the game, it was almost inevitable that they would score again.
They were piling the pressure on and Brushie made a save with a minute or two to go to stop Gormley equalising. 
Then it went into injury time, and their goalkeeper cleared a ball over the top to the halfway line, but Johnny Leddy took a touch and pinged it straight out over the top of the keeper for one of the best goals I’ve ever seen at Ferney Park.
That sealed it, and the place went mad.
You’d feel we might kick on after that, but it didn’t materialise, and over the next couple of months it just wasn’t good enough, and Gavin left.
We did get a lift when Harry came in, and we were close to saving ourselves, but ultimately it just didn’t happen, and it has been a hard time for the club this last two seasons trying to get back up.
But, if I took the context of the season away and just looked at this game, it had everything against a good side.
The big regret I have, looking back at my time at Ballinamallard, is not appreciating it at the time.
When you beat the big teams, or had victories at Ferney Park over the Christmas period when there were big crowds, you never replace that buzz.
I had been quitting Ballinamallard for a number of years with the injuries I had, but Whitey and Gavin – and even Harry – when I did eventually quit, they said “You will never replace the buzz that you get out of playing”, and they were 100 per cent right.