Belfast Telegraph

Tuffey ready to deliver in blood and thunder fight for bragging rights

By Graham Luney

Jonny Tuffey can't wait to experience his first mid-Ulster Boxing Day derby but he knows Portadown are very capable of shattering his festive cheer.

The Lurgan Blues number one was part of a Linfield side that tasted victory at The Oval in a huge festive showdown so he knows the cauldron of noise that awaits him at Mourneview Park.

Derby contests are always special but there's added spice on Boxing Day and the Lurgan scrap promises to be a Christmas cracker.

Gary Hamilton's side have been flying this season and are only two points off a top three spot but it's been a turbulent campaign for the Ports with only eight victories from 20 league battles not reflecting the talent Ronnie McFall is working with.

McFall has received stinging criticism from some Ports fans but this month's 5-3 win over Glentoran was a timely reminder of their ruthless streak.

"I'm expecting another blood and thunder derby," said Tuffey who played in September's mid-Ulster showdown at Shamrock Park which finished 2-2.

"Both sets of fans will create a fantastic atmosphere and fingers crossed we will come out on top. In my first taste of Boxing Day action with Linfield we won at The Oval but it was the same scenario in Scotland.

"There's a lot at stake in these derbies and you really want to perform.

"I know Portadown have hit a few bumps this season but I think all teams have apart from Crusaders and when you look at the ability they have in their ranks they are capable of giving anyone a hiding.

"I watched their win over Glentoran when their quality shone through and I think Robert Garrett is the man who makes them tick.

"You could go through their team but Garrett is a quality midfielder and a real threat to us."

The Lurgan Blues' hopes of securing a top four finish received a massive boost when Daniel Kearns agreed to remain at Mourneview until the end of the season.

"You target a top six finish while wanting to win every game but when players like Daniel come to the club that's testament to Gary's (Hamilton) ability to attract players and also underlined the backing and support that comes from the board," added Tuffey.

"Gary is doing a fantastic job and he will be brutally honest with players and I like that.

"Trust and respect is there and he has also shown faith in young talent, faith that is being repaid. We have a talented group and I'm thrilled be be part of it all and working with Reggie Hillen, a fantastic goalkeeping coach."

Irish League players aren't allowed to be party animals over the festive period with fans expecting slick performances.

"You've got one eye on the games but it doesn't stop you enjoying Christmas Day with your family," said Tuffey.

"It's about being professional and watching what you eat and drink. It's a very exciting time."

Belfast Telegraph


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