Mallards in full flight

Published Saturday, 18 August 2012
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Ballinamallard manager Whitey Anderson toasted his team's magnificent 5-0 win over Lisburn Distillery with a drink of tea and then quipped to reporters: "It's the only cup we'll get all season!"

I wouldn't be too sure about that after the Mallards' start to the top flight and, in particular, their superb display on matchday two which left Whites boss Tim McCann red-faced.

Add to that the fact the other 10 teams in action on Saturday couldn't be separated then I'd say Ballinamallard are at least capable of cementing a position in the top six come the end of the season.

Despite a lengthy delay which culminated in the dismissal of Distillery's Phil Simpson, the referee added just one extra minute to the second half - clearly, in boxing parlance, a case of avoiding further punishment.

Granted Distillery were architects of their own downfall with an abject performance but I'd give Ballinamallard due credit for their entertaining brand of football.

Rarely have I seen so many passes find their target at an Irish League match and Jason Mcartney's third goal illustrated the point as he danced his way past several defenders before finding the net after an excellent flowing move.

Two hundred and eighteen fans turned up encouraged by the free admission made possible by the generosity of an anonymous match sponsor.

So I was told by Distillery Chairman Jim Greer, the man who came off with the famous quote about Irish League football: "It must be the only league in Europe where the referee and his assistants get paid more than the players".

Ominously as it turned out he alluded to the fact that Ballinamallard had beaten the Lisburn side before in the Irish Cup.

Well admission was 'free' if you were able to get past Whites' stalwart Rab who demands a pound for the weekly 50-50 draw, which I have never won, I hasten to add.

Around 60 fans travelled all the way from Fermanagh and Whitey made sure his players applauded the supporters as they trooped off the pitch after their historic first victory in the top flight of Irish League football.

The Mallards boss lapped up the media attention after the game telling reporters that visiting teams will get a "warm welcome" when they go to Ferney Park and "it's a lovely part of the world", doing his bit for Fermanagh tourism.

Chatting to fans at the game many had come along because it was free, but one told me: "It would have been just as easy to have gone to Ravenhill for the rugby but Irish League football is struggling so I try and support the Whites whenever I can".

Some clubs may well be struggling but I've a hunch Ballinamallard aren't one of them judging by the amount of branding on their kit.

Two separate car dealerships were advertised on the players' shorts and there were two additional sponsors branded on the front and back of their shirts.

Being a rural club, particularly with a monopoly of senior football in the area probably makes it easier to attract sponsorship.

In contrast Distillery suffer from the fact that Lisburn is primarily a city that supports Linfield and they have never really been a big crowd puller since moving from the Grosvenor Road in Belfast during the Troubles.

The Whites manager Tim McCann is more than just that - he is doing his bit to attract sponsors to the club. He's had a tough baptism in his first job as the man in the hot seat after being Scott Young's number two at Glentoran.

As for the Mallards, they're certainly flying high and as Whitey Anderson remarked afterwards those who thought they'd be whipping boys have been proved wrong.

© UTV News
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John Flack
John Flack

John Flack is a producer for UTV's Sport department.

A seasoned writer and reporter, John knows local sport like no one else.

From Irish League football to local hockey via Ulster rugby and GAA, John's knowledge is second to none.

A big fan of Spanish football, in his spare time he enjoys reading about sport and travelling, particularly to sunnier climes.

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