Belfast Telegraph

Kirk aiming to break Linfield Glentoran monopoly

By Graham Luney

Who said there is no place for sentiment in football? Pat McShane will wear the captain’s armband when he runs out for Lisburn Distillery against Linfield at Ballyskeagh on Saturday.



And as McShane continues an exciting new chapter in his career, the Whites are also in the mood to stay hot on the heels of Linfield, Glentoran and Cliftonville in the new JJB Sports Irish Premiership.

Pundits talk about the big two in Scotland and big four in England but now talk is emerging of a big three in Northern Ireland.

Cliftonville’s recent title-chasing exploits have suggested that they deserve be taken seriously as Gibson Cup contenders but Ballyskeagh boss Paul Kirk isn’t yet ready to acknowledge there is a big three in domestic football.

Linfield and Glentoran will always be referred to as “Belfast’s Big Two” but that doesn’t mean the rest of the league should quietly let them get on with the business of winning silverware.

“Who are the big three?” said Kirk. “There has always been Linfeld and Glentoran while Cliftonville have pushed themselves up the league in the last few years but before that Dungannon Swifts got up there so that third position can always be changed.

“The big clubs have more wealth and bigger fan bases and it is easier for them to attract players but we are seeing change because players want to play football and not simply be part of a 22-man squad. We have a smaller squad but we are more of a family club than an institution and the players will get time on the pitch.”

There is plenty of ambition at Ballyskeagh as the curtain opens on a new season and what better way to kick off their 2008-2009 campaign by providing Linfield with an early test of their championship mettle.

“It will be a great atmosphere and I have already told Pat (McShane) that he will skipper the team on Saturday,” added Kirk. “Wayne Buchanan is suspended for this game but Pat will lead the boys out. He has been a superb signing for me and it will be a fitting moment for him.

“The Linfield fans will give him a huge reception because he’s a legend there. His name will always be in the Linfield history books, he was one of their real stars.

“The Blues were worthy champions last season and they always go about their business the right way. People can say the players coming in aren’t of the quality Linfield need but once you pull on a Blues jersey it makes a difference.”

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