Belfast Telegraph

Coleraine's rise is fantastic for our league, says McFall

By Graham Luney

Ronnie McFall believes it is healthy for Irish League football that Coleraine are challenging for league glory.

The legendary McFall was the last manager to lead a provincial side to title success, guiding Portadown to victory in 2002.

Since then Linfield, Glentoran, Cliftonville and Crusaders have kept the Gibson Cup in Belfast.

McFall was speaking about the Bannsiders ahead of their Irish Cup quarter-final with the Glens, who have been on a roll ever since the 72-year-old walked back into football management in an interim role at The Oval.

There will be a pitch inspection at 10am to determine if the match can go ahead.

McFall has been in charge for two league games following Gary Haveron's sacking and won both, 1-0 versus Cliftonville and 5-0 against Warrenpoint Town at The Oval.

It's an impressive start from the experienced boss in his second spell at The Oval 34 years on from the first time around, but even if some Glentoran fans have started to tentatively suggest they would like to see him stay on longer, the man himself insists this is a short-term venture.

In the battle against his close friend David Jeffrey and Ballymena for sixth and big fixtures post-split, he is looking good and big Ronnie would love to combine positive league results with a great run in the Irish Cup.

At Portadown he won it three times as boss and it is now 35 years since he inspired the Glens to the trophy.

"The Irish Cup is a special competition and the further you go the better it is for your club," said McFall. "It would be fantastic for Glentoran to get a result against Coleraine because it would build on the two league wins and be a boost for everyone.

"We know though that Coleraine are a very good side and one of the top two teams in the country at the moment.

"They are pushing Crusaders hard for the title and I don't think we could have had a harder draw but we will prepare well and believe we can give it a go.

"The players have given us everything so far in terms of effort and commitment and you can see confidence coming back."

Oran Kearney's side have been a huge success story this term but they will be desperate to put some major silverware on the table come May, be that the league championship or Irish Cup.

At the top of the table they are two points behind Crusaders, who have a game in hand, and have lost just once in the league.

McFall, although gunning to beat them, is full of praise for what is going on at Coleraine.

"It is good for the Irish League to see a club outside Belfast challenging for the title. It generates more interest around the country," said McFall. "Coleraine have been excellent this season. I think Glenavon, in third, are also very strong.

"At Coleraine, Oran Kearney has done a fantastic job. Fair play to Coleraine for standing by him and giving him time and look at what he is doing now."

McFall, who this week texted new Portadown boss Matthew Tipton to wish him well, is enjoying being back in the dug-out.

Two years on from departing the Shamrock Park helm after almost three decades, he said: "The game hasn't changed. It never will. You just have different generations but if you put heart and effort in and get the basics right you have a chance.

"I'm at Glentoran to help until the end of the season. I don't want to go on longer. This may be looked at as part-time football but being an Irish League manager is a 24/7 commitment.

"You have to plan training sessions, scout players, sign players, talk about contracts and deal with the media and that's before the matches! If you want to make a success of it, a lot of hard work goes into it."

Meanwhile, hat-trick hero Robbie McDaid has insisted that the east-Belfast outfit will travel without fear to take on Coleraine. McDaid was in scintillating form on Tuesday night at The Oval, netting three times as the Glens blew Warrenpoint Town away 5-0 in the league.

And McDaid believes that the tide could be turning for the Glens, who are now strong favourites to make the top six.

"Hopefully things are turning around for us this season," said McDaid. "Winning games and scoring goals is good for our confidence and now we can look forward to a big game against Coleraine. It's a massive match for us and we can approach it with nothing to fear."

McFall is enjoying his second spell at The Oval 34 years on from being unceremoniously sacked first time around. To outline the length of time between his periods in charge, McDaid's dad John played for McFall when he was the boss in the '80s.

"My dad actually played for Ronnie when he was at Glentoran so I knew what to expect," said McDaid junior. "I don't mind old school. I enjoy it and he's been really good for me since he's come in and as long as I'm doing the business for him hopefully he will be happy."

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