Annagh on verge of Premiership elite after rise from risk of Mid-Ulster return

Annagh United have gone within five years from the risk of relegation out of Irish League football to 180 minutes away from a place alongside the game’s elite.

Given the rise of the club only formed in the 1960s, it is understandable many will bill tonight’s promotion/relegation play-off first-leg derby date at home to Portadown as the biggest fixture in Annagh history.

However, Ciaran McGurgan - the son of a founding member who has been instrumental in Annagh’s revival since taking over as manager in 2017 - is quick to play down the high stakes for his boyhood club based within two miles of the high-profile Ports.

Two games over tonight and Friday will shape the future of Irish League football in Portadown. But McGurgan, having secured second in a first season back at Championship level, feels Annagh line out aware the full pressure is on the visiting four-time Irish League champions fighting for senior survival.

Annagh United manager Ciaran McGurganAnnagh United manager Ciaran McGurgan
Annagh United manager Ciaran McGurgan

“We go in totally relaxed and with nothing to lose,” said McGurgan. “Our goal is to enjoy the occasion and treat each fixture as just another game.

“We don’t go in with any special gameplan to deal with two legs against Portadown at home first then Shamrock Park on Friday.

“I think nine of our small squad have Portadown connections and people around town have been talking about this play-off scenario for a long time.

“But I’m just so proud of everyone and we obviously appreciate it’s massive in terms of potential Premiership promotion...but no-one ever expected us to be in this position.”