Ryan Campbell is hopeful Ballinamallard United can return to competitive football before the end of the current season, despite the decision by the clubs to null and void the Championship campaign .

After a series of cancelled start dates for the season, the decision not to grant elite status to the second tier competition ultimately proved fatal, with a change of heart from the IFA coming too late as it coincided with the height of the current restrictions.

With Championship teams being inactive, an axe now hangs over the Irish Cup, with NIFL proposing a regional competition as an alternative way for clubs to get some match practice before kicking off the premier cup competition.

While many view the new competition as a poor second choice, ‘Rocket’ admits the squad are willing to consider all options if it means they can get back out onto Ferney Park.

“I think that is to suit themselves so that they can still try to run an Irish Cup, but most of the boys are happy enough to come back and play some sort of football,” he revealed.

“Harry asked us, as players, what we would like to do, and my opinion was that I wouldn’t mind playing some form of football just to get going again. If they are not going to make us elite though I don’t see the point, because there could still be a lot of stopping and starting with lockdowns.

“There is no point us playing the first round and not being classed as elite, and then maybe another lockdown and not being allowed to train.

“Then they expect us to walk into the next round and compete against the Premiership teams, and them going since August. That would not be fair on the Championship clubs. Harry reckons we could have some sort of news this week or next week on what they are proposing, and we can take it from there.”

The striker admits he was not surprised to see the league season cancelled, but he still struggles to see the logic behind the IFA decision not to start the season in tandem with the Premier League.

“Since Christmas we sort of knew that was going to be the outcome, but I don’t know why they waited so long to get us up and going,” he said.

“I think the way they treated the Championship clubs was a bit shambolic. I don’t know what they are thinking when they are having their meetings up there, but they could have had our league started no bother in September or October time when we were playing all those friendlies.

“We were playing the matches and we were allowed a crowd. We were already doing it anyway so I don’t see why they couldn’t have started the league.

“Then, I think when it got towards Christmas, they started to realise that they needed the Championship clubs for the Irish Cup, so I think that is why they were trying to push it a bit then.”

The stop-start nature of the schedule has been a tough time for players and Ryan admits it was difficult to maintain motivation with little prospect of competitive football.

“It is frustrating the way we were training and training and then you were getting shot down,” he said.

“Then we were back at training hoping for another date, and then you were shot down again.

“It was disheartening and you could see it in a few of the boys at training when it was getting near the end.

“You were training for nearly 20 weeks and you could see they were sick of it. When you have nothing to aim for you were training just to keep yourself ticking over, but it was hard to keep motivated when you had no finish line to look forward to,” said the Mallards striker.

The 39 year old spearheaded Ballinamallard’s attack last season, with his goalscoring prowess earning him a nomination for the Championship player of the season.

Despite his efforts, however, the decision to shut down the season left his efforts in vain.

During the season he admits he had considered making the 2019/20 his final year, but subsequent events have made him more determined than ever to go out on a high note and help the Mallards back into the Premier League.

“I was contemplating whether to push again or not, but I don’t want to finish in those circumstances, and that is why I told Harry that I will definitely go back next season and give it a push again and see how I feel,” he revealed.

“It happened at a bad time for me at my age because I was probably having one of the best seasons I have ever had in the Championship and then it was cancelled.

“Over Christmas I took a break, but over the last few weeks I have got in touch with Brian, our strength and fitness coach, and he has given me a programme, so I have started it to get me up and going before we go back to the running.

“There is only so much you can do at the house, but some of the stuff he has given me is very good, so if I can stick to that it should keep me ticking over. I will get a good pre-season and see how I feel and then I will make a decision, but at the minute I don’t want to step down or retire with the way things have ended, especially given how well the club was going and the chances we were creating.

“I think I would be happy to push again and hopefully in my last year get the club up to the Premiership again. If that happened, then I could walk away content knowing that they have finally done it and got them back.”