Ballinamallard Manager Harry McConkey is expecting ‘a mighty challenge’ when his side take on Dergview in the Irish Cup at Ferney Park on Saturday.

After the league season fell by the wayside without so much as a ball being kicked in anger due to Covid-19 restrictions, it is a welcome return to competitive action for both sides, and McConkey feels it will be a tight tussle.

“I expect this to be a mighty challenge. There hasn’t been a game between the clubs that hasn’t been very competitive, and it is the old cliche of derby games that people do sometimes think too much about it and underperform, and then other people absolutely thrive on that,” said McConkey, who has stressed the importance of finding the right balance to his players.

“I have said to the players that we have to find the balance. You need that edge to your game – it is necessary if you are going to win the battles – but you can’t forget how you want to play.

“Regardless of who the opposition is, we have a style of play and a very firm template set down for our players over the past couple of seasons, and we want to make sure we do that justice.”

The Ducks boss, who has also had a spell in charge of Saturday’s opposition, is in no doubt that Dergview have the attacking players to cause the Mallards problems.

“There is no doubt about it, Ivan [Sproule] has made some very good signings and when you look through their team, there is no question that they have as good a top half of the pitch as you would have in the Championship.

“They have lots of quality throughout their team, but I do feel the top half of the pitch is where they will definitely cause us some problems,” he added.

However, McConkey is happy with the blend of youth and experience that he has within his own squad, and says that the older players have shown great leadership in helping the younger players through important games.


“I have constantly applauded the seniors for the way they have helped the younger players, but both sets of players know that they need each other.

“That experience and calmness of a player who has been around the block before and played in Irish Cup finals is great to have around when you are only coming into the set-up and you are a bit nervous because you haven’t played at this level before.

“You have the likes of John Connolly, Dean Curry, Mattie Buchanan, Duwayne McManus, Richard Clarke, Ryan Campbell and Jay McCartney, and I am constantly aware of the direction they give on the pitch as well as off it,” he said.

In terms of injuries, McConkey has had a couple of knocks that have concerned him, but he is still hopeful of having a full squad to select from on Saturday.

“Ben McCann has come through and played 90 minutes on Saturday, which is pleasing, but we are still nursing Dean Curry and he is working away, so we are hoping to have a full deck to choose from.”

McConkey is delighted to finally have a competitive game for the players to focus on, especially when it looked like this season would be a write-off, although he says that, more importantly, it was great to have the players all back on the pitch together.

“It is just brilliant to get another game back at Ferney Park and a competitive game with such meaning for everybody concerned.

“We know that this is a major competition and while that has very much given the boys a focus, we are just so glad to have taken the opportunity this month to have had the lads in.

“It will be the 14th session we will have had, come Saturday – in other words, we have had 14 times together that we thought we might not have at all, and I think that is the greatest joy of all of this.

“I told the boys we should be grateful for what we have and they must go out now and express that joy on the pitch on May 1.”

McConkey states that progress will be the target on Saturday but regardless of the result, the preparation time they have had will prove invaluable moving forward.

“Let’s not hide behind the fact that Ivan and myself will be determined to get through to the next round – that’s why we are in the game, and it’s a natural thing to make sure that we try and progress further. This though is bonus time that we have managed to get together, and it will help us in preparation for the new season.

“It is a case of keeping that to the fore for the players, that without these 14 sessions they wouldn’t be in such a good place regardless of what the outcome of this game is.

“We would dearly love though to have another game, and another couple of sessions,” he concluded.