Mallards to host league leaders

Ballinamallard United welcome league leaders Institute and former player Jamie Dunne back to Ferney Park on Saturday after an eventful end to the January transfer window for both sides.

Dunne played in 22 league matches for Ballinamallard this season but left to rejoin Kevin Derry’s side – from where the pacy attacker arrived at the start of the campaign – last week.

The Ducks acquired ex-Longford midfielder Gary Armstrong in response, and he debuted in their 6-0 win over Knockbreda at the end of a busy week for boss Tommy Canning.

“It was a strange couple of days; as far as we were concerned, the window was closing in an understated way, we had no more business to do and then I took a call late on Monday afternoon from Kevin (Derry),” said Canning.

“They’d lost a couple of players, were looking to fill the gap and Jamie Dunne was an easy one to identify for him; his form’s been good, he lives in Derry, he’s an ex- ‘stute player, so it was an opportunity he couldn’t turn down given that they’re in the hunt for promotion. We were disappointed but accept his reasons for wanting to move on.

“At the same time, one of our contacts in Sligo identified Gary Armstrong and he came up and played in a friendly with Sligo last Tuesday night which gave us a look at him, and we saw enough in that to sign him which happened very quickly.

“He’s a different type of player to Jamie but he’s played the last few seasons in the League of Ireland First Division which is a good standard, so he’s got a bit of pedigree and quality about him, and he played on Saturday and didn’t look out of place. We feel we’ve lost a good player in Jamie Dunne, but we’ve also signed a good player in Gary Armstrong.”

Dunne wasn’t the only addition made by Institute either with Northern Ireland international Daniel Lafferty – who’s played in the Premier League with Burnley – another incoming alongside former Ballinamallard players Shane McGinty and BJ Banda.

And after his side’s victory over ‘Breda made it three home wins in a row, Canning is hopeful his side can rise to the challenge on Saturday against visitors who’ve extracted 1-0 wins over them twice this season.

“They have put together a really, really, strong squad because obviously in the position they’re in, they’re looking to push on and win the league,” he added.

“But I expect Saturday to be tight, our home form is where we’ll be taking our confidence from; our last three games, we’ve scored 13 and conceded one, and played two teams who you could say are also title challengers.

“We have an almost clean bill of health so we’ll have a good squad to pick from, we just need to get our selection right, get our personnel and setup right, and hopefully we can continue our good home form.”