Ballinamallard targeting Europe
Ballinamallard United are dreaming of European football, less than a year after stepping out of the intermediate ranks.
The Fermanagh outfit have made such an impact in their first season in the top flight that they have lodged the initial paperwork required for a Uefa Licence – which is required if they are to play in Europe.
Now all they have to do is hope that their on-field performances so far this season will continue to be good enough to launch them on to the continental stage.
The Mallards currently sit fourth in the Danske Bank Premiership, thanks in part to notable victories over Cliftonville, Linfield, Coleraine and Portadown. Finishing there might be enough to give them a place in the Europa League.
If current leaders Cliftonville and Crusaders, who are second, meet in the final of the Irish Cup – as they did in the IRN-BRU League Cup – then fourth place in the Premiership would guarantee a European spot.
"Even talking about Ballinamallard United and European football seems ridiculous, but it shows just how well we have done," said manager Whitey Anderson.
"We have applied for a Uefa Licence because there is a chance that we could qualify and the last thing we would want is to be denied a place because of not having a licence."
The Mallards aren't quite guaranteed a top-six finish in the Premiership just yet, but a couple more wins should be enough to secure that and even that would be a remarkable achievement for Anderson.
"People talk about the financial benefits of the top six, but in real terms there's only £1,000 of difference between sixth and seventh," said Anderson.
"After that any gate money depends on the fixtures you have and we might only have two out of five games at home.
"The reason why we want to be in the top six is so that we are playing against the beat teams in the country in the final month of the season.
"It would be great to be involved in matches against the title contenders in the closing weeks of our first season in the Premiership and to maybe have a say in where the title ends up."