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Ballinamallard must channel inner All Blacks to earn survival: McConkey



Staying calm: Ballinamallard United manager Harry McConkey

Staying calm: Ballinamallard United manager Harry McConkey

Staying calm: Ballinamallard United manager Harry McConkey

Harry McConkey wants his Ballinamallard United players to channel the spirit of the All Blacks rugby team and play like Glentoran legend Jim Cleary in their great escape bid at the Oval today.

The Ferney Park men approach the final set of league fixtures where they have been for most of the season - at the bottom of the table.

But with the inspirational McConkey at the helm, there remains hope that they can survive.

Above the Mallards on goal difference are Carrick Rangers, who travel to Warrenpoint Town. If the race to win the title is tense, imagine the atmosphere at Milltown and in east Belfast this afternoon.

It may be Ronnie McFall's last home match in his second spell in charge of Glentoran, but the focus is on the Fermanagh outfit who must secure a better result than Carrick to earn a play-off with Newry City.

Alternatively, behind by five on goal difference, McConkey's side would have to rack up a huge score to avoid automatic relegation.

McConkey believes it is ironic that Ballinamallard are playing at a ground where one of Fermanagh's favourite footballing sons Cleary became such a hero. He adds that in the heat of battle it is crucial the visitors don't lose their cool.

"It was talked about in a book about the All Blacks that they wanted blue heads and not red heads," said McConkey.

"Blue heads are the cool heads who carry out the game plan and stay focused and stay together, whereas the red heads are impulsive and try to go off and do their own thing which can work against them.

"We will be well prepared and we will have the right mindset because we have faced must-win games all along in the run-in.

"I have told our players we're going to the cup final without suits. We are going to one of the most historic grounds in the country which was graced so well for many years by the great Jimmy Cleary who of course is from Fermanagh.

"We want to make sure we grace it in the same way and enjoy every minute of this last throw of the dice."

When Ballinamallard beat Carrick at Ferney Park earlier in the month, Rangers dropped to the bottom. All that changed again last weekend when David McAlinden's side won 2-1 at Glentoran and McConkey's men drew 1-1 away to Ards.

"I think after Carrick lost to us that actually lifted the pressure off them and it worked because they got a great result at the Oval.

"Going to Warrenpoint won't be easy for them though. We'll know how that game is going. It would be very naive not to," he said.

"But, while we will be aware of what is happening at Warrenpoint, there has to be a calmness and a blue head with me so that whatever feedback I get, I have to relay that to the players in a very functional way.

"We can't move away from our strengths just because we hear something happening with Carrick. We have to harness all the good things we have."

Glentoran vs Ballinamallard

Danske Bank Premiership

The Oval, Today, 3pm

Belfast Telegraph