Opinion: United’s support at final was simply FAN-tastic!

It’s just a pity you can’t bottle the feelgood factor which the build up to the Irish Cup FInal created in Ballymena and district.

The Kop stand packed with Ballymena United fans cheering on their side in the Irish Cup final. INBT19-256AC

Sky Blue fever definitely infected the area as Ballymena United returned to the centre stage of Irish football 25 years after they last lifted the trophy.

And, while Saturday’s result didn’t live up to the lofty expectations of the fans, there will be few, if any, who would have missed an otherwise wonderful day at Windsor Park.

Throughout the week leading up to the final, it was plain to see that the big game had captured the imagination of local people like never before.

To a large extent this was down to digital media with facebook and twitter being used to spread the message of goodwill towards the team.

Flags and bunting were, for once, not a source of contention as supporters mounted a highly visual campaign of support.

The only controversy arose over the fans’ perceived view that Ballymena Borough Council was dragging its heels in demonstrating civic support for the team.

To a certain extent that was rectified by the erection of flagpoles at the Braid and sky blue bunting at the Broadway bandstand.

There was a further gesture of support when the Atrium of the Braid Centre was specially lit up in sky blue on the evening before the game.

By the time Saturday arrived, it seems the whole of Ballymena Borough was bursting with excitement!

From scarf wearing sheep dyed in sky blue colours to the now legendary ‘Sky Blue Choo Choo’ , there really was a great festival style atmosphere for everyone to enjoy.

Having sold out their ticket allocation, Ballymena fans marginally outnumbered their Glenavon counterparts on the day but both sets of supporters can be proud of the spectacle of colour and noise they created.