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Ballymena United forced to start season away from home

By Adam McKendry

Ballymena United will be forced to play their first month of Danske Bank Premiership fixtures away from home due to renovation work at the Showgrounds.

The pitch at Warden Street is being re-laid after it caused several problems over the last couple of seasons, while it is also being extended at the same time.

This would allow the Sky Blues to play European football at home should they qualify, unlike last season when they had to take their Europa League match against Norwegian side Odd to Seaview.

However, for the moment it means they cannot host matches on it until the work is scheduled to be completed, with September 15 the date currently pencilled in.

That means that when the fixtures for the new season are released on Friday, June 29, Ballymena will be on the road for the first few fixtures until they can return home.

It also poses an issue for SuperCupNI matches scheduled for the Showgrounds, which are likely to be moved to the back pitches behind the stadium.

"Barring unforeseen circumstances the date we have been given when the pitch should be available is 15 September," Ballymena vice-chairman Don Stirling told BBC Northern Ireland.

"The weather has been kind recently so the work is going ahead on schedule or even slightly ahead of schedule.

"The weather is still a factor and the more time the grass is given to bed in the better so if it turned out that we were away on 15 September and that gave us an extra week it could be all the better.

"The fixtures will be released home and away as normal and my understanding is that we will then have to rely on the goodwill of other clubs to switch fixtures."

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