BALLYBOFEY United manager Brian ‘Barney’ Lafferty will be looking for three points when he takes his team to Cranford Park this afternoon, kick off 2pm.
One of three teams sitting on 12 points, Ballybofey find themselves two adrift of Cranford and Lifford Celtic who, in turn, are five behind Division One pace-setters Bonagee United who have amassed 19 points from their opening eight games.
“We have the players who are more than capable of winning promotion but it hasn’t been easy getting the commitment required to make the necessary push,” he lamented.
Indeed, Lafferty (55), a former Finn Harps player, was forced into using himself as a second half substitute during their 2-0 win away to Gweedore Celtic before Christmas.
“We went down there with just eleven men – the same number we went away to Carn with for a cup match. It’s far from ideal,” he admitted.
Ballybofey opened the season with an impressive 8-0 win at home to Lagan Harps before suffering back-to-back defeats against Drumkeen United (0-2) and Drumoghill FC (2-3) with both games also played at the Finn Valley Centre.
Wins away to Gweedore Celtic (2-0) and league leaders Bonagee United (4-2) were followed by a third win on the bounce – away to Convoy Arsenal (1-0) before losing 4-1 at home to Lifford Celtic in their last outing before Christmas.
“We’ve lost games that we should have won and probably won a few games that we were lucky to win. It’s that kind of League. There’s very little between the teams. The best team we played were Convoy. They’re a very good, young, well organised side and we were lucky to win the game 1-0. We also played above ourselves to beat Bonagee but we’ve let other games slip,” he said.
Manager of the team who won promotion two years ago from Division Two, Lafferty spent much of last season working in England and he’s been disappointed at what he’s come back into this year.
“We had a wee bit of commitment at the start of the year but it’s getting harder to get the boys out to train. If United, City or Liverpool are playing mid-week we’ll be well short numbers at training,” he said.
“We’re in decent shape and our aim is to win promotion. We’ve a tough few games coming up, starting away in Cranford this weekend, so we’ll know a lot more about ourselves over the next month or so,” he added.
With Ballybofey United set to move into new state of the art facilities adjacent to the Butt Hall Tennis club at Dreenan in September, Lafferty would like nothing better than to see them playing in the Donegal League’s top division next season.
“To be fair there’s a very good hard working committee in place at the club. They’ve put in a place a state of the art pitch and work is ongoing at the new dressing rooms but the interest from the players simply isn’t there.
“They’re playing on the best of pitches and have top quality training facilities but they’re simply not bothered. There’s no commitment. Young fellas nowadays have a leisurely approach to sport. If they turn up well and good. If not, sure they can sit and watch cross channel games on television. It’s not unique to Ballybofey,” he said.
“We’ve only three or four lads who play with MacCumhaills regularly and, anyway, you can’t use the GAA as an excuse in a town the size of Ballybofey. There should still be more than enough players.
“If it wasn’t for the GAA lads we wouldn’t have been able to fulfil some fixtures this season. They’re well drilled, well organised and don’t tend to miss any training sessions. They’re well used to it, as for some of the other lads..” he sighed.
Lafferty’s own son Barney (jnr), goalkeeper Christopher Patton, centre-half Ronan McMenamin and Paul Kelly are the Ballybofey players who also line out for MacCumhaills while Gary Dunnion has decided to take a year out.
Striker Damien Glackin is team captain and he, alongside, Jude Patton are the club’s leading scorers while Michael Lafferty is also enjoying a good campaign.
“I would love to see the club playing Premier Division football next season but I’m not so sure. It would appear that unless you’ve come through some underage team like Finn Harps where you’re used to training and having some structure in your life it’s very much a case of they’ll play a game of football to fulfil the fixture and only turn up if it suits. It’s very frustrating,” he said.