Belfast Telegraph

Welders hoping Smyth can wave his magic wand for second time

Bluefin Championship

Back again: Gary Smyth has retaken the reins at Welders
Back again: Gary Smyth has retaken the reins at Welders

By Steven Beacom

Glentoran legend Gary Smyth is back in management with his former club Harland and Wolff Welders.

Smyth will initially take charge for the rest of the season following the departure this week of Colin McIlwaine and George O'Boyle.

Smyth was hugely successful in his previous spell at the Welders, winning the Steel and Sons Cup in 2015.

Club chairman Thomas Flynn and the board at the east Belfast club, currently fourth bottom in the Championship, are delighted that Smyth has returned to take the reins after leaving to coach at Glentoran last year.

When Ronnie McFall left the manager's role at The Oval in January, Smyth took over but was only in charge until March, with Mick McDermott replacing him. The former defender is determined to move on with his career, starting tomorrow when the Welders host Knockbreda.

Another man returning to his old club, John Bailie, will take charge of Ards tomorrow for the first time at Dundela.

Unless there is a miracle, Bailie's first chance of achieving promotion will come next season. Right now Ards, in sixth, are too far adrift of the top two Portadown and Ballinamallard.

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At Wilgar Park, respect will be paid to former Ards player Jerry Thompson, whose sudden death this week stunned football in Northern Ireland.

It will be the same at Ferney Park, where Ballinamallard face Portadown, who Thompson also played with.

So that Ports officials, management and players can attend Jerry's funeral tomorrow morning, the encounter between the top two in Fermanagh will start at 5pm.

Matthew Tipton's men are six points clear of Harry McConkey's side. If they earn an away win, they will be odds-on favourites to go up as champions.

Should the Mallards come out on top, the title race is well and truly on.

Bluefin Sport Championship fixtures: Dergview v Newry, H&W Welders v Knockbreda, Loughgall v Queen's, PSNI v Ballyclare (all 2pm), Dundela v Ards (3pm), Ballinamallard v Portadown (5pm).

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