Belfast Telegraph

Portadown sign Kevin Braniff and another Ballymena player as Tipton revitalises squad

By Gareth Hanna

Portadown have added two more players with huge Premiership experience as they bid to reach the top flight next season.

Kevin Braniff, 35, returns to the Mid-Ulster club from Ballymena and joining him on the journey to Shamrock Park is United defender Johnny Flynn. Both players have signed two-year contracts.

Braniff is the third player brought back to Portadown for his second spell at the club by recently-appointed Portadown boss Matthew Tipton.

Darren Murray has rejoined the club and Sean Mackle has returned from Warrenpoint, both on two-year contracts as Portadown look to seal promotion next season.

Braniff, of course, has helped Portadown escape the Championship once before, staying to help the club seal promotion during an eight-year spell at the club from 2006 to 2014. There are also rumours that Robert Garrett could be set for a return to Shamrock Park but boss Tipton has said he is looking to complete just one more deal for a 'young player'.

He even earned two caps for Northern Ireland during his first stint at the club.

Braniff then joined Glenavon, where he scored four goals in the semi-final on route to Irish Cup glory, and signed for Ballymena in January last year. He was sent off during his final game for Ballymena, picking up two yellow cards during last night's defeat to Cliftonville in the European play-off semi-final.

Former Falkirk defender Flynn, 28, was David Jeffrey's first signing for Ballymena in 2016, joining the Sky Blues from Cliftonville.

Ballymena United boss Jeffrey said that both players left with "every blessing" from the club and hailed Braniff's winning goal in last season's Europa League play-off final against Glenavon.

"Who could forget Kevin's goal this time last season to take us into Europe, a goal that obviously ended up being very rewarding for the club to allow our building plans here," said Jeffrey. "We want to thank Kevin for his time at Ballymena United, similar to Johnny he feels that at this point in his career it is the most sensible move for him.

"Johnny has at times been frustrated with niggling injuries, but we’ve been able to see when he gets a run of games exactly what he has brought to this squad. He is a player with the highest levels of commitment and dedication - even last night when he was unable to play due to suspension he was there with his son actively behind the boys and a real team player.

"I'd like to thank both players and Matthew Tipton for their transparency through their negotiations and also agreeing to keep this private until the season was over, given the importance of the run in."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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