European night at Showgrounds

Shaun Oneill

Reporter:

Shaun Oneill

Email:

sport@ballymenaguardian.co.uk

BALLYMENA United go into Europe on Thursday night, taking on NSI Runavik, from the Faroe Islands, at the Showgrounds in the preliminary round, first leg (7.30pm).

David Jeffrey’s Sky Blues warmed up at the weekend with a 2-1 win over Barry Town United at Dixon Park in a per-season friendly.

On target for Ballymena were Leroy Millar and Ryan Mayse.

United will travel to the Faroe Islands for the second leg on Thursday, July 4.

The official Ballymena United party have chartered a plane for next week’s clash.

Scores of United supporters are making their way to the venue via various means.

Speaking to Guardian Sport this week United captain Jim Ervin said they will be taking one game at a time.

He said NSI Runavik are halfway through their season, giving them the edge regarding fitness.

The defender is aware that victory over the Faroe Island opposition over the two preliminary legs would give them a money-spinning clash with Swedish side Malmo in the first round.

But he was quick to point out next game in his thoughts, this Thursdsay night, against NSI is the only thing in his, and his side’s radar.

“I never look too far ahead,” he told Guardian Sport. “We have two extremely difficult Europa League matches coming up and we will take them one at a time.”

The United captain said he and the club are delighted at being able to play their home European tie this time round at home.

Back in 2017, due to the pitch not being the specified European measurements, the Sky Blues had to play their home tie with Norwegian club Odds BK at Seaview.

“But not this time,” said a most pleased Ervin.

“The Ballymena United fans will be able to enjoy their European nights on home soil - at the Showgrounds,” he said.

Ervin has been a star performer since joining United from Linfield four seasons ago.

The skipper admits he wondered about his future after wrecking his cruciate for a SECOND time.

That serious injury was sustained back in the 2014 Irish Cup final against Glenavon at Windsor Park.

“I did question myself at the time,” recalled Ervin.

“But hard work, dedication and sacrifices got me back playing again.”

And he certainly has not looked back.

Ervin, who is 34, had a superb season for the Sky Blues last time round - and seems to be getting better each season.

Again he collected a number of Player of the Year awards.

* Tickets for tonight’s Europa League tie are on sale at Stirling Trophies, Queen Street, Ballymena.

It is an all-ticket match (£12 per adult and £8 per concession).

NOTE - Season tickets and BUYA passes will not be valid for this fixture.

Supporters normally located in the directors box will have to sit elsewhere as UEFA want it closed to home fans.

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