Why going the extra mile for a match ticket takes on a whole new meaning

Ballymena United.
Ballymena United.

THERE’S one footballing cliché that Ballymena United supporters would be glad to see come to fruition this Wednesday.

I refer of course to the old saying that in ‘derby’ games, the formbook goes out the window.

For Ballymena, that is just about the biggest blessing imaginable after a wretched sequence of results.

In reality, it’s easy to see why in ‘derby’ games, the supposedly ‘weaker’ side can often turn over their more favoured opponents.

It’s as close as you can get to a one-off game, as good as a cup tie.

It’s also why those fixtures often fail miserably to live up to the hype that precedes them with players so pumped-up that they often lose the ability to complete even the simplest of tasks.

A Ballymena v Coleraine Boxing Day game is a peculiar animal.

It’s a fixture which, in the past has attracted crowds of up to 5-6,000 people, yet if the two sides were to meet in a league fixture at any other stage of the season, you would struggle to get a quarter of that number.

Contrast that with a ‘Big Two’ game between Linfield and Glentoran which would be a sell-out if you were to play it at 3am and it really adds to the question of how and why Ballymena and Coleraine can’t attract bigger crowds on a more regular basis.

I fully understand, though, why people make a decision, even as late as lunchtime on Boxing Day, to go to the game – the alternative of a repeat of a film on TV and a half-eaten tin of Quality Street isn’t particularly favourable.

It’s that cross-section of potential spectators that the Health & Safety brigade are out to stop, using the rationale that these people, often with no particular affiliation to either club, often arrived boozed-up intent on doing nothing other than cause bother.

I would have no difficulty in removing people with that intention from the equation but it also reflects very unfairly upon a large number of people who simply want to get out of the house and enjoy a game of football, played in a good atmosphere and in front of a large crowd - and let’s face it, that’s not going to happen on a regualr Saturday with a plethora of other counter-attractions to catch people’s interest and custom.

Then, of course, comes the crowning glory in the whole all-ticket charade surrounding this fixture.

People WILL still be able to make a last-gasp decision by purchasing a ticket right up to kick-off – provided they buy it at least a mile from the ground, in this case at Ballymena Bowling Club.

Utterly absurd - you really couldn’t make it up.

On the pitch, any ‘derby’ win secures bragging rights for the fans of the winning team, at least until the two sides meet again but victory for Ballymena is much more important than for that reason.

Not only would it end the Sky Blues’ recent run of defeats but it might also provide a spur going into the new year, when Ballymena – hopefully with reinforcements to come in the January transfer window – will hope to keep alive what has been a largely promising first half of the season.

* Follow Ballymena Times Sports Editor Stephen Alexander on Twitter (@Stephen_Bmena)