Belfast Telegraph

Billy Weir: Let's hear it for Rhys Marshall and Jim Ervin - two of the Irish League's good guys


Rhys Marshall and Jim Ervin
Rhys Marshall and Jim Ervin

By Billy Weir

It was a red-letter day for two defenders in blue last weekend.

Rhys Marshall played his last game for Glenavon before his much-merited move to full-time football with Shamrock Rovers.

It is long overdue and, no offence to Rovers, how a team from across the water hasn't come in for one of the best players it has been my pleasure to watch in recent years is beyond me.

Hopefully, like Gareth McAuley before him, this initial move will be the next step up the ladder.

It was mixed feelings for Gary Hamilton, who has nurtured Marshall along at his hometown club, and paid him a huge compliment on Saturday.

"I can't say a bad word about Rhys Marshall," said Hamilton.

"He is the best player I have ever played with and the best player I have worked with over here - and that goes back to my days with Glentoran and Portadown, that's the highest thing I can say about him."

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At the other end of the scale, Jim Ervin completed an unusual double at the weekend, making his 250th appearance for Ballymena.

He was written off by many when he left Linfield after 298 appearances but has gone on to turn in one superb performance after another.

Bizarrely, I remember his first display for Ballymena, as A Trialist, back in the summer of 2004 at the heady surroundings of Allen Park, Antrim, home of Chimney Corner.

Ballymena were preparing to take on Danish side Odense BK in the Intertoto Cup and Kenny Shiels gave this young lad who had just come home from Nottingham Forest a run-out.

Unbelievably, he chose Linfield over Ballymena, where he became a hero, but it says much about his tigerish, competitive spirit that he was unmercilessly booed by the Windsor Park crowd when he played against them in the League Cup final!

Wanting regular first-team action, he left the Blues when he could easily have sat on for a testimonial, and was to be later reunited with David Jeffrey.

"He is our leader, our captain and our example. I never thought I would get the opportunity to work with him again when he left Linfield," said Jeffrey.

"At that stage he felt it was time to move on. He is, without a shadow of a doubt, a Ballymena United all-time great, but over and above that he is an Irish League all-time great.

"His performances this season have eclipsed and surpassed last season. For me, he has been our most consistent player this year, and in a difficult year he has stood out and is an example to all of us, and I am so proud of him."

Good luck to both men, two of the good guys of the local game. There is still plenty more to come from them.

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