Ryan and Adam have a Laff over Johnny

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Ryan and Adam have a Laff over Johnny thumbnailMcAleer Jackson Accountancy colleagues, Ryan Henry and Adam Lecky, with Ballinamallard United and Urney GAA player Johnny Lafferty.

ADAM Lecky and Ryan Henry often share the same joke as when they come into the office on a Monday morning.

The pair are colleagues in the tax department in McAleer Jackson Accountancy in Omagh, and although Adam plays football for Ballinamallard United and Ryan plays Gaelic Football for Urney St Columba's, they both have something in common on the sporting front. They are both team-mates of Johnny Lafferty.

"Myself and Adam always have a joke with each other on a Monday morning about how Johnny played for each of our teams," says Ryan. "We would have a chuckle if he was rubbish for both teams, but that doesn't happen that much!"

"We have a laugh that we both come in with sore backs from carrying Johnny through matches," says Adam.

Lafferty is a rare bred in today's sporting world in that he continues to combine playing for different teams in different codes at a high level each week. On Saturdays, he lines out for Ballinamallard in the Danske Bank Premiership, while on Sundays he takes to the GAA field to play in the colours of Urney. Lafferty is a key attacker for both teams, and his considerable talent is matched by his commitment to both clubs.

Lafferty proved his worth to the Clady club as he weighed in with two points from play against Eglish in the Tyrone Division 1/2 promotion-relegation play-off. The 1-10 to 0-9 win ensured Urney would play senior football after a 19-year absence from Tyrone's top tier.

"Its a hard balance for him. To play a full match on Saturday and then again 24 hours later, it is probably not ideal, but it shows great commitment," says Ryan. "We are well aware of his contract with Ballinamallard, and of course we know all about the talents of Johnny. He was there for Urney at pre-season in February, and he was there on Sunday when we won promotion. He doesn't just come and go."

Lafferty, who is a school teacher in Strabane, signed to Ballinamallard in 2014 from Strabane Athletic, and also had stints with Finn Harps and Dergview, where Lecky was also a team-mate.

"With us, Johnny is training twice a week, and then a game on a Saturday," says Adam. "He travels from Strabane as well, so that's several hours each night. Also, with Ballinamallard being located so far west, sometimes an away day can be a full day. He manages to keep it up."

Hugh McAleer, of McAleer Jackson Accountancy, has commended the "common sense" thinking of the management teams.

"There is a lot of talk of player burnout these days, so it's rare there is a case like Johnny in today's sporting climate. He can play in the highest league in Northern Ireland football on a Saturday, and then can go out to play a high level of Gaelic football on the Sunday.

"It shows a lot of common sense from both teams, and I think Gavin Dykes of Ballinamallard and Urney's management should be praised for their level of understanding with each other in allowing Johnny to combine both sports"


Long road to senior football

For Urney, it has been a long road to senior football, with a series of false dawns and crushing disappointments along the way. Urney last played in the top grade in 1996, and lost three Intermediate finals (2010, 2012, and 2015) in the past six years. Despite the triple setbacks though, the club finally achieved promotion via the league play-off. Henry was instrumental in the win over Eglish, putting in a fine display at midfield and scoring four points from frees.

"Its a great achievement. I don't think the younger players in the team will realise how big the achievement is for years to come.

It's great for the older boys obviously. I think if they had have retired before this, they might have looked back on their Urney careers as failures. Now they can end their career on a high."

The St Columbas' season began with uncertainty when Urney where left without a manager just weeks from the commencement of the league. Veteran midfielder Feargal McNulty stepped into the role of player-magaer, and Ryan believes it was his relationship with the players that helped the club on their quest for promotion this year.

"Our previous manager took us to the Ulster League final, and then for whatever reason stepped away. Fergal came in and because he has been our teammate for years, he brought in a player's perspective. He knew all the players inside out."


Battling the drop

While Ryan's season ended in promotion, his work colleague Adam as been more used to battling the drop at the other end of the league table in recent seasons.

It took a play-off win for Ballinamallard to secure their 2016/17 status in the Premiership in the summer, and Lecky says the Ducks are again up against it this season as former Sligo Rovers boss Gavin Dykes takes over from long-standing Whitey Anderson. The 25-year-old is confident though that a few wins can drastically change the fortunes of the Ferney Park men.

"The last three or four years its come down to staying up. It's not what you want, to be always fighting relegation. We had a much changed team from the start of this season, and there was a transition period with Whitey leaving and Gavin coming in.

"We are in a bit of a rut, but in this league, three or four wins and you could shoot up the table. You can't look too far ahead."

Lecky signed for the Mallards in 2015 from Dergview, and has successfully made the step up from Championship. The Castlederg man, who usually plies his trade in midfield, was thrust into the centre forward role at the start of the season for the game against Carrick Rangers. He scored twice that day in a 3-3 draw, and has been deployed as a striker for the side since, top scoring for the Mallards with six goals.

"That was my first time playing up front. In actual fact it was Johnny that plays up front. He was injured one week, so in emergency I went up and ended up scoring two."

Ballinamallard will have to do without the services of Lecky from January on however, as he has planned to travel to Australia for several months.

"I'll be going away in mid January for three or four months," said the Melbourne-bound player. "It has been all the cards for a while, and Ballinamallard have been very good about when I came to them with my decision.

"It's something I'll definitely miss, but I might look to play some football when I'm out there.

"I want to do as much as I can for the Mallards before I leave.


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