Belfast Telegraph

Critics will have to eat humble pie after Portadown's Euro win: Hamilton

By Graham Luney

Gary Hamilton has applauded Portadown for wiping the smile off the faces of Irish League critics.

The Ports were viewed as whipping boys when they made the daunting trip to face Skonto Riga in Latvia, but a Richard Lecky goal fired them into the club’s history books.

Irish League clubs find themselves swimming against the tide when they take on full-time opponents during the summer, but this latest fairytale story should inspire the Linfield team ahead of their Windsor Park date with Rosenborg on Wednesday.

Hamilton’s former club may be a bitter rival of the Glens in the Carling Premiership, but a European success is rightly hailed as another slap in the face for those who mock the league.

“Some people refuse to believe that we have good players in this league, but the truth is that we have players who are good enough to play across the water,” said Hamilton. “They just have to be given the chance. Rory Patterson has made the move, while Jamie Mulgrew is one who springs to mind that could take that step.

“I’m delighted for Portadown as the Irish League gets knocked from all quarters, and when other teams do well it shows that the talent and desire is there.

“The opposition in Europe usually has better match fitness, which is a big problem as we are a part-time set-up and out of season, but there is often little difference in terms of the standard. The Latvian and Icelandic teams are beatable, and maybe our players should believe in themselves more, and have less fear.”

Hamilton’s former club can now look forward to a home first leg clash with Azerbaijan side Qarabag on Thursday.

“The boys’ confidence will be high, and they will believe they can win again,” said the former Northern Ireland international.

“Portadown will be very strong next season, and Ronnie (McFall) will probably bring in another striker with the extra income from their European adventure.”

Income is a sensitive subject at the Oval, after it emerged that Glentoran players had to wait a little longer for their wages.

“I think there was a misunderstanding there, and the issue has been resolved,” said Hamilton. “Glentoran’s financial situation is well documented. We didn’t have our home Boxing Day fixture last season, and there haven’t been many home games for a while. After a few friendlies, the club can get back on its feet.”

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