Football/Soccer

Progress for Ballymena in Europa League would be a bonus says David Jeffrey

David Jeffrey's Ballymena United side take on Runavik at the Showgrounds tonight
Liam Maguire

Uefa Europa League preliminary round, first leg: Ballymena United v NSI Runavik (tonight, 7.45pm)

BALLYMENA United manager David Jeffrey has stated that any progress beyond the Europa League preliminary round would be a massive bonus as his side prepares to take on NSI Runavik at the Showgrounds tonight.

Ballymena qualified for the Europa League by virtue of their excellent league form last season, when they ran Linfield close for the Danske Bank Premiership title. And having had to use Crusaders’ Seaview ground the last time they were in European competition, tonight’s game at the Showgrounds will be extra special.

“At this moment in time, we don’t change too much in that we just focus on what’s ahead of us and we try and give our best come Thursday evening and then we’ll have another difficult game away,” said Jeffrey.

“So we’re not even allowing ourselves to think, consider, dream, whatever word you want to use of anything beyond that we as a club and as a bunch of players have done fantastically well to qualify in the manner that we did. Anything else that we get from here on in will be a massive bonus.”

As for the significance of being able to host Faroese side Runavik on their own patch, Jeffrey added: “It means an awful lot, I’ve got to say, and if you look at the splendid pitch now with the 3G run-off, it’s absolutely fabulous.

“It’s tremendous to think that we qualified for Europe and that’s the second time now in three years. I am so pleased that we can bring European football home to the Showgrounds. Great credit has to go to the council and the staff and officials for preparing the stadium to the standard that it’s in.”

Despite the short break they enjoyed and their early start to the new season, Jeffrey hopes his players will be ready for the challenge ahead.

“The players have worked very hard, even though the turnaround was very, very short,” the former Linfield manager said.

“They were sent away with their own programs and what they had to do. We’ve prepared well in terms of the two pre-season games we’ve had and all we hope is that lack of match practice and match fitness won’t come too much to the fore.”

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