Belfast Telegraph

Fighting spirit will be the Kee to Institute's survival

By Graham Luney

Let's be honest - nothing really surprises us anymore in Irish League football.

After what has happened this season, Gary Hamilton scoring the winner in injury time to beat Glentoran at the Oval on Saturday was predictable. You could say it was classic Irish League behaviour, written in the stars.

What other sensational storylines are on the horizon? Don't be shocked if Katy Perry supplies the half-time entertainment at the Irish Cup final, though don't tell health and safety inspectors as the moment they find out she sings about fireworks the gig is off.

It was always going to be a long shot anyway as Warren Feeney would never agree to the appearance fee.

No doubt the drama will keep coming but the moment David Jeffrey agrees to become Glentoran manager we can all say right move along now, there is nothing more to see here.

For many supporters one of the biggest surprises with only nine league games remaining would be Institute rediscovering their mojo and securing Premier League football for another season.

Football is serious business to a lot of people and it was depressing to hear Stute boss Paul Kee say he was considering stepping down as manager after the 3-0 defeat at Ballymena United on Saturday.

All managers feel pressure but there is nothing more torturous than being trapped in a relegation fight, feeling that your luck has gone and everything, including big refereeing decisions, are against you.

The Derry man is feeling low because he cares about the club and their fate. He simply wants to know his players feel the same way.

I've never been a manager so I can only imagine the soul destroying moments when your hard work is not rewarded. The moment the game starts affecting your health it's not worth it and it's time to walk away.

But surely dark and troubling periods can also be character building. Institute are four points adrift of Warrenpoint Town at the bottom and even the Darren Forsyth registration saga surfaced to generate some false hope they might climb away from the basement.

The frustration is deep, especially when you consider the Drumahoe men's spirited start to the season when they only lost three of their first nine league games, a period that included wins over Coleraine, Warrenpoint and Ballinamallard as well as draws against Glentoran and Linfield. The writing on the wall now makes grim reading. Four wins in 29 matches, only 29 goals in that time and a goal difference of -33.

Now 16 league games without a win, everyone at the club could be forgiven for feeling sorry for themselves but the club is at a crossroads now and they have two options - fight or surrender.

Fear of failure is not an option. The players must show how much they want to stay with the big boys.

Paul is right when he says the players need to take ownership. They owe their manager - who has invested so much time and energy into the cause - performances the club can be proud of. The Stute boss, who has coached some of Northern Ireland's best players at under-17 level, deserves the support of the club's committee at this time.

Stephen O'Flynn's exit to Crusaders was a significant blow and a lack of investment in the squad is hurting them.

There's a negative, defeatist attitude which must be replaced by renewed optimism, determination and hunger.

The buck stops with the manager but the players need to buck up their ideas and start performing as if Premier League football means something to them.

Regroup and give Irish League fans another surprise.

Belfast Telegraph

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