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Europa League: Ronnie McFall is planning vintage night for Portadown


Portadown manager Ronnie McFall

Portadown manager Ronnie McFall

Portadown manager Ronnie McFall

Ronnie McFall has re-written the history of Portadown Football Club over and over again in 24 years as manager at Shamrock Park. And now he wants to etch another chapter by taking the Ports further in Europe than they have ever been before.

Literally that is the case, as they travelled to Azerbaijan on Tuesday, a distance of some 3,000 miles from County Armagh.

It’s on the pitch, however, that McFall wants to continue a journey that has already seen his team overcome top Latvian side Skonto Riga to set-up their Europa League second round clash with Qarabag.

He has lead the club to four league titles, three Irish Cups and numerous other trophies, but it was only two weeks ago in Riga that McFall celebrated his first European victory with his hometown club — and he’d love to get a second straightaway.

It will take something special though, as Qarabag left Shamrock Park last week 2-1 winners, meaning the Ports must score at least twice if they are to claim another moment of history.

And that will be all the more difficult given that Richard Lecky — who has scored all three of the Ports goals in Europe this summer — is on holidays and misses the game.

“We have a mountain to climb, but nobody gave us a chance against Skonto when we went over there after a 1-1 draw and we got through that one,” said McFall (right).

“We need to score two goals, but in my experience, no matter who you are up against, you’ll always get a chance or two in a game and it’s about taking them when they come along.

“We’ve seen what they are like. They are a good side who like to attack, but we have quality in our team and I have no doubt that we will give a good account of ourselves. After that, if that gets us through it will be great.”

The Ports European adventure has created a special buzz around the club, which is in stark contrast to this time two years ago, when they were banished into intermediate football because the deadline for applications to be included in the new Premiership was missed.

And they needed a victory over Donegal Celtic on the last day of the season to secure a return to the top flight at the first time of asking.

Any other result that day and the Ports could have been staring into an abyss.

“What we’ve achieved already in Europe is massive,” said McFall.

“When you consider where we’ve come from it makes it even more remarkable.

“To be in the Championship two years ago and now got through a round in the Europa League is amazing.

“I never had any doubt that we had the quality to get out of the Championship because it wasn’t football reasons that we were put down.

“It was hard though because it was a bit of a culture shock being down there.

“Anything other than getting back up straight away would have been unthinkable.”

The winners of the tie will face either Siauliai of Lithuania or Wisla Krakow of Poland in the next round. Wisla won last week’s first leg in Krakow 2-0.

Tonight’s game has a 9pm kick-off in the Azerbaijan capital of Baku, which is four hours ahead of UK time, meaning that it will start at 5pm.

Belfast Telegraph