Mallards ready to mix it with elite

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Fermanagh side Ballinamallard United prepare for their first season in the Premiership.

Fairytale has been the word ringing round Ferney Park ever since Ballinamallard clinched promotion to the Irish Premiership.

However, preparations for the club's debut season in the top flight have also been grounded in realism.

This is the first time that a team from Fermanagh will compete at the top level of the Irish League and the club has been in overdrive during the summer to make sure everything is ready for Saturday's opener with neighbours Dungannon Swifts.

Despite the massive effort undertaken to achieve Premiership status, boss Whitey Anderson insists there is no immediate pressure on Ballinamallard to succeed.

"Someone said to me earlier that you've nothing to lose and we're just going to go out and enjoy it and give it our best shot," he said.

"We know the task that lies ahead is a massive one, but I don't think there are any real nerves. Everybody's working hard and we're just looking forward to the start of the season.

"It might sound very simplistic, but it's a game of football and we're going to enjoy it."

Since last season ended, the club has carried out extensive work to make sure that the grounds, pitch and stands are up to the standard required for the top flight.

With donations from four members of the local community, an £80,000 pitch has been installed to compliment the immense work undertaken at the ground since 2006.

The Mallards have also busied themselves in the transfer market, looking to supplement a team brimming with local talent.

Anderson has been looking to blend those members of his squad who have come through the ranks at Ferney Park. with players that have experience of the elite level in the Irish League.

Whitey Anderson
Whitey Anderson is determined to enjoy managing in the Premiership

With that in mind, the Mallards supremo has added former Dungannon keeper Alvin Rouse to the ranks.

Southampton trainee Ciaran Harper and Dergview forward Ryan Campbell have also been recruited during the close season.

However, former Sligo Rovers captain Conor O'Grady has been the marquee signing for United and he will bring grit and knowhow to the Mallards midfield.

O'Grady is still finding his feet with the club, but believes Anderson deserves a lot of the credit for putting a side together capable of winning promotion.

"The manager has to have an impact and whatever he did last season worked. He worked his magic and the lads responded to him," said O'Grady.

"He was the main reason why I came here. He's very honest and I liked what he said to me."

New recruits and local players alike are hoping there will be a happy ending to their unlikely fairytale.

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