Club focus: Ballynahinch boss Hamilton is eying upset against rivals Drumaness
A few eyebrows were raised last week when Premier Division high-flyers Drumaness Mills were paired with local rivals Ballynahinch United at the Coca-Cola Intermediate Cup draw.
While Ballynahinch may be two divisions below Drumaness, their manager Keith Hamilton still believes his side have a chance of causing a first round upset.
“Everyone is really looking forward to it, it's the only thing people were talking about at training this week. I'm friendly with a lot of the guys at Drumaness, so it's a game to get excited about," he said.
“They're obviously top of the Premier at the moment but I'm confident that if have our full side out we can give them a game. We've beat bigger clubs in the past.”
Ballynahinch United are not stranger to cup success. Last year they made it all the way to the fifth round of the Irish Cup before losing 7-0 to Oran Kearney's Coleraine side.
This year, they've already knocked Bangor Amateurs out of Northern Ireland's blue ribboned cup competition. In the second round they will face fellow 1B side Sirocco Works.
Hamilton said: “We've had some great runs in the Irish Cup in recent years and we would love to repeat that. It's great for the club, as it boosts your profile and brings in some extra revenue. Coleraine was a magnificent experience for us last year and we would love to do something like that again.
“But we've got to deal with Sirocco Works first, who have already beaten us this season. They're a tough side but if we can stand up for ourselves, we have a good chance.”
Last week, United lost 6-1 to Belfast Telegraph Championship One side Ballyclare Comrades in the Steel & Sons Cup. Hamilton was full of praise for Eddie Hill's side.
“We were missing a few players but if I'm being honest I don't think that would have made much of a difference. Ballyclare are just at a completely different level from us, the pace they played at and the way they moved the ball was really impressive. Some of our boys thought Ballyclare were as good as Coleraine.”
While Ballynahinch have had some success in the cups, they've not got off to the best of starts in 1B. So far they've claimed four points from their opening four games.
Hamilton explained: “We started well with a good win over Lisburn Rangers, who I think are one of the better teams in the league, but we've slipped back in the league a little since then.
“The following week we lost 1-0 to Sirocco Works. I think we were every bit as good as them, but we've a very young team and they've a side full of players who played in the Irish League. They've a lot of experience and they know how to win a game.
“We also lost 4-0 to Newcastle, which was a game we just didn't turn up for. I was disappointed with that result and the 1-1 draw with 1st Bangor, but we've a team that are capable of doing much better and I expect us to improve as the season goes on.”
Despite a sluggish start, Hamilton still expects United to finish in the top half and he hasn't ruled out a promotion bid.
“We our much better than our league position suggests. We finished sixth last season and we've a much better squad this year so I'm aiming for a top four finish. We've the ability to win promotion," he said.
“Our problem in the past has always been that we didn't score enough goals. Now we've got Johnny Gibson from Ballygowan who scored 50 goals last season in the Down Area and we've another forward in Simon Jackson. I'm confident we can improve on last season.”
Name: Ballynahinch United
League: NAFL Division 1B
Colours: Sky Blue and Navy
Gaffer: Keith Hamilton
Skipper: Scott Braeshaw
Sharpshooter: Englishman Simon Jackson
Most Skillful: Scott Braeshaw is one of our best players
Hard Man: Adam Herron
Club Comedian : Johnny Stevenson keeps everyone going
Best Moment: Playing Coleraine in the fifth round Irish Cup
Club Man: Groundsman Jimmy Brown
Belfast Telegraph Digital