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Ballinamallard's players getting their kit off for charity calendar

By Adrian Rutherford

Meet the Irish League footballers who are stripping off for a charity calendar.

Players and staff at Ballinamallard United have ditched their kit to help raise money for Cycle Against Suicide.

Footballers joined models on the catwalk at the Manor House Hotel in Fermanagh for the glitzy launch.

It is based on Calendar Girls, the story of a group of Yorkshire women who produced a nude calendar to raise money for leukaemia research under the auspices of the Women's Institute. Their exploits were later captured on the big screen in a 2003 comedy.

Players including Shane McCabe, Ryan Mayse and Andy Crawford, as well as team boss Gavin Dykes, were among those taking part.

The production of the calendar and fashion show was led by the club's ladies committee, with the images taken by photographer Ronan McGrade.

Ladies committee chairwoman Helen Hurst said she was thrilled with the response.

"My committee is delighted with the support we received from our club and especially by the willing participants when we first suggested this idea," she said.

"We collaborated closely with photographer Ronan McGrade and the management, players and my committee are pleased with the finished product.

"We hope to raise funds to support the charity Cycle Against Suicide as, in our club, we know only too well the effect suicide can have on a local community and so we felt this was a good cause to support."

Cycle Against Suicide is a cross-border charity that helps people who are dealing with losing loved ones and mental health issues. Ballinamallard captain James McKenna admitted he thought it was a joke at first. "I thought the gaffer was winding us up when this was suggested, but the opportunity to support the club and a local charity meant it was an easy decision for the boys to commit to support," he said.

"It was fun making the calendar and was a pleasant change for all of us to mix this with training over a few nights in October. I'm sure we will all take some ribbing from family, friends, opponents and supporters but we are supporting good causes, and this was our motivation to be involved."

Ballinamallard have been playing in the Danske Bank Premiership, the top division of local football, since 2012. But they have struggled this season and sit third bottom of the table.

Head coach Dykes said the calendar production had generated some light relief.

"We had many laughs making it," he said.

"The strong community ethos that has been apparent since day one when I joined this club meant it was very easy to say yes to Helen when I was asked to support this initiative." Ballinamallard chairman Jeff Aiken added: "When first mentioned as an initiative I was a little sceptical as to how this would go down with the players, but the management team and players have embraced the idea and I'm confident the calendar will be a great success."

The calendar is available for sale now priced at £10

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