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Ronnie McFall resignation: 'sorry end for colossus' of the game

By Jim Gracey

Ronnie McFall's resignation as manager of Portadown, after a shock 3-2 Irish Cup quarter-final home defeat by lower league Lurgan Celtic, means a sorry end for a colossus of the local game who had signalled his intention to step down at the end of this season after almost 30 years in charge.

Altogether his remarkable career has spanned 50 seasons, the last 29 as Portadown boss, having come in to the game with his home town club, aged 17. He also played for and managed Glentoran, leading them to an Irish League title in 1981.

But it was with Portadown he really made his mark, ending a title famine in 1990 and going on to add more three more championships and three Irish Cups in a golden era through the 90s and early part of the new century.

The last few season have been a struggle, by the standards McFall set at Portadown, with budget constraints hitting his transfer market options and amid supporter unrest, he announced before Christmas last year that this would be his last season.

But the end came sooner than planned after Celtic's shock win, courtesy of a last minute penalty after Ports had fought back from 2-0 down to 2-2.

One of the big Irish League personalities of the past three decades, it will be strange looking at the Shamrock Park dugout and not seeing Ronnie, in his trademark flat cap and muffler, barking orders, disputing decisions, living and loving every minute of the 90.

Aged 67, he was asked in  a recent Belfast Telegraph interview how he would spend his Saturdays in retirement and said: "To be honest, I haven't had time to think about it. I've been too busy preparing the team from match to match and taking care of all the other business being a manager entails. Maybe getting closer to the time, I will start wondering what I'm going to do with the time I've spent on football down the years.

"I expect I'll still go to matches. Many good friendships have grown out club rivalries down the years and there's nowhere I wouldn't feel welcome."

Even prior to stepping down last night, he had been linked with the vacant Ballymena United post

But in that same interview, he was adamant that Portadown is his last managerial job in football.

"I always said when I finished with Portadown, I'd be finished with football, and I'm holding to that. It will be a complete break," he said.

Ronnie has brought a lot to the Irish League party and his big presence and vast reserve of football knowledge will be missed.

Lurgan Celtic now look forward to their first irish Cup semi-final against Linfield at Windsor on Friday, March 31. Their town rivals Glenavon face Crusaders at the same venue on Saturdat, April 1.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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