Fermanagh Ipswich Town fans celebrate promotion

THE Manor House Hotel has celebrated thousands of glamourous weddings over the years, but a promotion? Surely that’s taking it a bit too far?

This was no ordinary promotion though.

Instead of bridal gowns and trendy suits, it was Ipswich Town jerseys and flags that were on display at the hotel as the Kieran McKenna-managed side were promoted to the English Premier League.


His team’s 2-0 win on Saturday over Huddersfield Town at Portman Road was enough to see them heading back to the big time under the guidance of the 37-year-old Fermanagh man.

The club last played in the Premier League in 2002 and last weekend’s result sparked off much celebrating at the popular hotel in Killadeas which is owned by McKenna’s family.

Pat Harty, from Drogheda, has been an Ipswich Town fan since the 1970s and now travels up to the hotel regularly to watch the Tractor Boys.

He and his wife Pamela were among the blue hordes at the hotel’s Cellar Bar to witness his team reach what former Ipswich captain Mick Mills called “the promised land”.

“Over the last year, we’ve been here to the hotel three or four times. It’s like a home from home for us,” Pat said.

“Ipswich have had their ups and downs – a good few downs! So this is a special day, especially as it’s an Irish man who is managing them. It’s fantastic.

“He [Kieran McKenna] is a brilliant manager and I love his style. He’s a people person. I think we’ll do all right in the Premier League, I really do. The people of Ipswich absolutely adore him over there.”


Before a ball had been kicked however, nerves were jangling, and not even a free pint of beer for anyone wearing an Ipswich Town top could ease the early jitters.

Neville Orman from Ipswich has lived in Ballinamallard for the past 45 years. His free pint was going down smoothly despite the pressure steadily building.

“I first saw Ipswich play when I was 10. That was 55 years ago. The last 20 years have been hard as the club has been in turmoil. It would be great to get back up to the Premiership and stay there,” Neville said. “I thought we were going to be stuck in League One forever.

“I met Kieran [McKenna] when he was over here two years ago for his birthday and he was visiting his old club Ballinamallard. He’s got a great persona.

“Hopefully we’ll do the business today.”

Neville shouldn’t have worried. Two goals from Wes Burns and Omari Hutchinson saw his team return to the Premier League after 22 years.

Soon it was free champagne instead of beer for the Ipswich fans and Ivan Jackson, who moved from Ipswich to Portadown four years ago, was one of those savouring the moment.

He’d headed to the hotel after he saw that the match was being shown there on an Ipswich Town website and was one of the many singing the praises of Fermanagh’s McKenna after the final whistle.

“The fans worship him. He’s brought the club back to life. There’s no doubt he’s going to move on to a bigger club eventually but while we’ve got him we’re going to treasure him,” an ecstatic Ivan said.

As a conga line broke out in front of the hotel, the jubilant Ipswich fans couldn’t contain their joy.

Their celebrations are sure to go on for a good while yet.

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