When Ballynure Old Boys run out against Malachians on Saturday, they will be aiming to prove a point. Not just for themselves, but for the whole Ballymena & Provincial Intermediate League.
Ballynure OB boss Gary Burns believes that Amateur League teams have a bad habit of looking down their noses at Ballymena League clubs. Saturday's Toals Bookmakers Steel & Sons Cup clash gives Ballynure a chance to prove their league's worth.
“I love it when a Ballymena League team beats an Amateur League team because I know that Amateur League teams think we're an easy touch, and it's great to prove people wrong.
“We've got Malachians in the next round of the Steel & Sons Cup and we will be showing them plenty of respect because they are well established Amateur League team that plays in the top division.
“At the same time, we will show no fear. Nothing phases my lads and I know they will give it everything. It's a tough draw but it's a good chance for us to show people what we're made of.”
Burns believes the standard of the Ballymena League has improved in recent years thanks to the addition of clubs like Brantwood.
“Brantwood will be strong again but I don't think they will be too far ahead of everyone else. I don't see why we can't be up there challenging. Consistency is the key.
“Newtowne will also be strong while you've got new teams like Ballysillan, Castlestar Chimney Corner and Killymoon Rangers joining the league.
“I actually think it's great that teams like Chimney Corner and Killymoon have joined our league. If we're being honest our division has taken a bit of a battering in recent years and established teams like ourselves have been wondering what future holds with all the drop outs.
“I don't blame Billy McIlroy, it's not his fault if a team drops out just before the season starts, but you'd have to ask questions if we ended up with a league of six or seven teams. Thankfully there are some new teams on board and I think our league is stronger than ever.”
Ballynure started their league season with a 5-1 win over Magherafelt Sky Blues. Burns is hopeful that his club of 12 years can challenge for honours this season.
“It was great to get our season off to a winning start. I think we're in a good position this year because there hasn't been many changes. We've kept all of last season's squad and only brought in one player. I think continuity is a major fact at this level.
“We finished last season with only one defeat from our last 20 games. The reason we didn't challenge for trophies was because we played much of the season without a proper goalkeeper after Paul Hughes got injured. We couldn't replace him until January as the transfer window applies to our league, so we ended up playing out field players in nets.
“Hopefully with our full squad of 20 available we can enjoy a good season.”
Name: Ballynure Old Boys
Division: Ballymena & Provincial Intermediate Premier League.
Ground: Mossley Park, Carmoney
Colours: Blue and Red
Manager: Gary Burns