Ballymoney United fall through Championship Two trap door
Ballymoney United's 32-year spell as a league club came to an end on Saturday, after their relegation from Belfast Telegraph Championship Two was confirmed.
United’s fate was sealed when they lost 3-0 to Tobermore United while their nearest rivals Coagh United secured a valuable point by drawing 3-3 with Newington at Hagan Park.
Ballymoney United joined the old Irish League in 1983 after winning the Northern Ireland Intermediate League. In their first season, they finished eighth in the B Division, in a division that included familiar names such as Dungannon Swifts and Ballyclare Comrades, but also the likes of Milford Everton (now Armagh City) and Ulster Polytechnic.
Much has changed since 1983 for Ballymoney United, but that doesn’t make relegation any easier to accept.
Long standing club committee man Gerry McAleese said: “Everybody is very disappointed as you can imagine. It’s been a difficult season for us and we’ve struggled for results.
“Things picked up in the last few weeks and we got a couple of wins, but we had a few injury problems for Saturday’s match and we just couldn’t keep the good run going.
“We’ve a very young team. Our oldest player is our goalkeeper at 28, so hopefully they will learn from their experience.
“We’ve had four different managers this season, which hasn’t helped matters. Hopefully we can get a bit of continuity in the new league and come back stronger.”
Ballymoney now must apply for a regional intermediate league to play in. As the Northern Amateur League and the Mid Ulster League are geographically unsuitable, United will most likely go for either the Ballymena & Provincial League or the Northern Ireland Intermediate League.
The Ballymena division includes former league clubs such as Brantwood and Chimney Corner, while the Intermediate division is the home of Oxford United Star and Newbuildings United. Ballymoney previously played in the Intermediate League, winning the division in 1981 and 1983.
Gerry McAleese said: “We’ve not decided anything yet but we’re going to hold a committee meeting on Tuesday, where we will plan for the future. We’ve got more than one option for next season. We want to give ourselves the best chance at bouncing back.”
Coagh United could yet be relegated out of the Northern Ireland Football League as well. They will go down if Camlough Rovers – the only Championship applicant who can still win their regional league – lift the Mid Ulster League Intermediate A trophy.
Camlough are one of four teams who could take the regional title, along with Ballymacash Rangers, Fivemiletown United and Tandragee Rovers. The Rovers are arguably title favourites.
At the other end of the table, Lurgan Celtic and Annagh United are within touching distance of claiming promotion to Championship One. On Saturday, Limavady United’s promotion dreams ended when they lost 2-1 to Portstewart, while Annagh went to Banbridge Town and won 4-0.
Sport & Leisure Swifts still have an outside chance of catching both Lurgan Celtic and Annagh United. However, if Celtic beat Swifts at Knockramer Park on Tuesday (tomorrow) night, Colly Malone’s men will be champions, while Annagh United’s promotion to the second tier will also be sealed.