Club focus: Strabane Athletic
After two evenly matched Irish Cup games against Premiership side Ballinamallard United, you might think Strabane Athletic manager Marty Doherty would be a happy man, but the former Omagh Town player cuts a frustrated figure.
While his sides' Irish Cup run has put the club on the map, Stabane Athletic are desperate to secure land to build a ground that would allow them to step up to the Belfast Telegraph Championship, but so far their appeals for support have fallen on deaf ears.
Doherty said: “We've got to highlight our struggle at every opportunity and try and build up some momentum, because at the moment it doesn't feel like we are getting anywhere.
“There are a number of council pitches in Strabane and all the council need to do is grant us one of them, but it feels like no-one is listening.
“People talk a good game but when it comes to a crunch, nothing is ever done.
“Every year players leave this town to play their football at a higher level. Over the years, Strabane has produced 30-odd Irish League players, but we've never had our own team. I played for Coleraine and Omagh Town.
“If we could get the support of the council, we could a build a ground to allow us to enter the Championship, and we could work our way up from there.
“We took big crowds to both cup games and we've got support from a number of sponsors. Strabane is a big town and it should have its own football team playing league football. It's frustrating that the local authorities won't help us.”
Last week, Strabane lost 1-0 to Ballinamallard in an Irish Cup fifth round replay, after drawing 0-0 in the original tie.
Reflecting on the game, Doherty said: “After the first match, I wondered if we had missed our chance but in the replay, even though we lost, we gave another good account of ourselves. We really could have won either game, but it wasn't to be.
“It's a shame we weren't able to host the replay in Strabane, but until the council sit up and take notice of our plight, we will never be able to host cup games in our town.”
Unfortunately for Doherty, the cup tie may have cost him one of his best players. Former Sheffield Wednesday trainee Liam McMenamin may be about to join Whitey Anderson at Ferney Park.
“It looks Liam McMenamin will leave us for Ballinamallard. He's a fantastic talent and we can't hold him back if he wants to play at a higher level.
“Thankfully we've now got Johnny Lafferty, who is a terrific talent. I honestly think he could play for Linfield or Glentoran, but he's a local lad and travelling doesn't suit him because of work. His presence will be a massive boost to us.”
Strabane are one of the favourites to win the NI Intermediate League, but a 3-2 defeat in between the two Ballinamallard games was something of a set back.
“The way I look at it is, if somebody finishes above us, they'll win the league. Obviously we've had all the excitement of the Irish Cup, but it's up to me to get the players to focus on the league again.
“We had a major disappointment last week when we lost 3-2 to Dungiven, but we've only played three games, so I'm confident we can achieve something.”
With a passionate manager like Marty Doherty, Strabane are use to recover from the defeat. Perhaps if they can win the league, the local authorities might sit up and take notice.
Name: Strabane Athletic
League: NI Intermediate League
Ground: Melvin Sports Complex
Colours: Sky Blue and White stripes
Gaffer: Marty Doherty
Belfast Telegraph Digital