McFall aiming for last laugh at Portadown
Kevin Braniff last night revealed a side of Ronnie McFall that those outside of the inner sanctum in the Portadown dressing room rarely — if ever — get to see.
And as McFall marks 25 years in charge of Portadown this weekend with a trip to Glentoran, his talismanic striker wants to ensure that there is a silver lining wrapped around those celebrations come May.
To some the Shamrock Park boss is downbeat — even in victory — but behind close doors there is a sharp, dry wit that keeps his players on their toes.
“There’s always a fair bit of banter flying around our changing room,” said Braniff.
“Ronnie takes a bit of it, but he gives it back even more. He’s quick to cut a few boys down at times.
“It’s a great achievement for him to clock up 25 years at one club, especially nowadays.
“You see some manager who have two or three defeats in a row and then they’re gone.
“You even look at some of clubs here who have got rid of managers after one bad spell when they’ve done quite well in the past.”
Four times McFall has led his hometown club to league title glory in the last 20 years. Winning a fifth crown would be the greatest of all.
Every time that the Ports have been crowned champions they’ve gathered momentum, hit the front and then charged to the title — although twice that came down to the final day of the season.
If the current side is to emulate the great teams of the past then they are going to have to do it the hard way, with Linfield currently being five points better off at the top of the table.
And Braniff (pictured) is urging the club to give the players the best possible chance of success by finding a way to bolster their squad for a title fight with January acquisitions.
“I don’t see any reason why we can’t stay in contention for the league,” said Braniff.
“We’ve done pretty well so far and there is still a long way to go.
“If we can get some of our important players back from injury and possibly strengthen in January — if that can happen — then we can hopefully push even harder in the second half of the season.
“We’ve still got the Irish Cup to come too and if we don’t end up winning the league then we’ll be doing our utmost to win that.”
An undoubted talent, Braniff has knocked in 13 league goals so far this season — and that’s one more than Premier League target Rory Donnelly.
With Matthew Tipton, Richard Lecky and Wesley Boyle currently on the injured list, Braniff’s role has changed a little — and despite his quality he is trying hard to adjust.
“I’m up front on my own and that’s not really my game. I much prefer to have a partner up there,” said Braniff.
“It just so happens that our squad has been hit by injuries in one area and I’ve had to adapt.
“I like to drop off, link the play and try to bring others into the game, but now I’ve to be patient and disciplined — which I admit aren’t always great strengths of mine — but we’ve got to work hard as a team.”