Belfast Telegraph

Ballinamallard are fired up for chance to bring down Linfield juggernaut, says McConkey

Ballinamallard v Linfield, BetMcLean League Cup, Ferney Park, Tonight, 8.00pm

High aims: Harry McConkey would love to knock Linfield out of the League Cup
High aims: Harry McConkey would love to knock Linfield out of the League Cup
Linfield manager David Healy

By Steven Beacom

Ballinamallard United boss Harry McConkey is relishing the opportunity to try and stop what he calls the Linfield juggernaut in the BetMcLean League Cup at Ferney Park tonight.

The Blues will be odds-on favourites for the rearranged second round tie and are keen to hold onto the trophy they won last season, but the Mallards should enter the game in confident mood after becoming the first team to defeat Loughgall in the Bluefin Sport Championship at the weekend.

While David Healy's side were winning the Big Two derby 1-0 with a late Kirk Millar strike on Saturday, McConkey's men secured a 2-1 triumph at Lakeview Park with second-half goals from Jason McCartney and Sean McEvoy. They are fourth in the table, six points behind leaders Portadown.

McConkey, who inspired his side to reach the Irish Cup final last season, is well aware that facing Linfield is about as big a challenge as any club can have in Northern Ireland.

"To me they are a juggernaut with the size of their squad and their quality of players," said McConkey.

"This will be a big test for us. We know what a cup run does for everybody around the club and we want to make sure we acquit ourselves to our very best, otherwise you could be on the back of a hiding against a team like Linfield.

"The atmosphere at Ferney Park when you get the floodlights on is great, and the pitch will be in good nick, so we are all looking forward to it.

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"There will be a lot of stars on the pitch because their whole panel are stars. Even if they don't play their strongest XI, they will still have a strong side.

"I also have to be careful because we have a huge league game against Dundela coming up so we will be picking our team with that in mind.

"We aren't showing any disrespect to Linfield or the League Cup in any way and we will have players of real quality who need game time."

McConkey was full of praise for Linfield's remarkable run in Europe and their boss Healy, whose achievements have made people sit up and take notice across the water.

"David has great humility but it is clear he is a very ambitious, young manager and is hungry to succeed at Linfield," said McConkey, who is 60 tomorrow.

"I do know how well regarded he is across the water and he would have a network of admirers over there, but, at this moment in time, the most important thing to him will be our League Cup game.

"He has undoubtedly shown that he can come through tough times and come out the right side of it, just like Michael O'Neill did with Northern Ireland.

"He has shown those same sort of qualities and clearly has that mix of knowledge of the game, respect within the game and the resources within this country to be very successful."

Asked if he could ever see Healy make a move to England as a manager, McConkey said: "The challenge in England is a much hairier and scarier one. I think depending on what David wants out of life in terms of balance, that would be a decision to make on his own personal front.

"He probably has his children and family very settled here and is in a position where he enjoys what he does, so do you throw yourself into the madness of what we see across the water where managers can lose jobs quickly?

"David is a level-headed young man who I think appreciates everything about Northern Ireland, not just the football but also the quality of life.

"He is clever enough to do what is best for him."

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