Premiership sides chasing Ballynure's Nigerian international Amuneke

The pace is hotting up to obtain the signature of Ballynure OB's talented midfielder Kevin Amuneke, with three Danske Bank Premiership clubs having already approached manager Ronnie Burns.

Former Nigerian international Kevin Amuneke is now turning out for Ballynure Old Boys but could be in line for the transfer to the Premiership. Pic by Pechblaende via Wikimedia Commons

“Glentoran and Ballymena United have been in contact for several weeks, with Niall Currie the Ards manager recently having joined the queue,” confirmed Burns.

Amuneke was a youngster at Porto during the glorious reign of a certain Jose Mourinho, played professionally in Portugal’s top flight, the Primera Liga, for Vitoria, and was the subject of a £400,000 transfer when he was sold to Bulgarian big-hitters CSKA Sofia.

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The 30-year-old’s brother Emmanuel played for Barcelona and is a former African footballer of the year, he was part of the Nigerian squad thhat participated at the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States, a first-ever for the African country, scoring against Bulgaria and Italy.

Kevin has two full international caps for Nigeria and his silky skills have not gone unnoticed since resurrecting his career through his personal connection with the Ballynure supremo, but it seems likely that he will be playing at a higher level once the January window opens.

“He’s outstanding, you know he has played professionally, he’s different gravy. He’s the type of player that with his flicks and his tricks, you can see players backing off him as he’s that quick and sharp,” said Burns.

“But you give him an inch and he scores, he popped up with three on his debut and all three were smashers.

“He’s given us his word that he will stay with us until the end of the season; there has been a few boys on about him, but that’s what you expect because he’s a class act.”

Amuneke starred again for Ballynure at the weekend against Lisburn Distillery in an Intermediate Cup tie, but it was the former Premiership side that advanced to the next round.

A solitary first half strike sealed the 1-0 win, but Ballynure missed a late penalty that would have taken the tie in to extra time at New Grosvenor Park.

The Whites peppered the Nure goal during the first quarter, but with Craig Todd and Mark Curlett resolute at the heart of the defence, Jonah Nicholl was not seriously tested.

Having weathered the storm, Burns’ lads began to dictate, with Josh McIlroy posing problems down the left, and the home keeper had to be at his best to keep out a Gerald Southam rocket. In another attack full back Kyle Rooney delivered a delightful cross to the back post where Robert Watson at stretch was unable to get a touch.

Rather against the trend of play, Distillery scored what proved to be the winner in the 35th minute, when Harris nonchalantly dummied a defender and the keeper before firing in to the net.

Just before the break, skipper Michael Duff headed Aaron Finn’s delivery back across the face of the goal, but there was nobody up to convert.

After the interval, the Whites were forced on to the back foot, with their keeper making another stunning save to keep out Rooney’s long range effort. Later he twice came to the rescue to deny Watson, who had another effort cleared off the line by a defender.

In the 86th minute, Ballynure were awarded a penalty when Amuneke was up-ended in the box after dancing round three defenders, but Watson’s down the middle spot kick was saved, when club officials had been looking forward to extra time.

“I can’t understand how we came away from that game with nothing,” fumed Burns.

“My only consolation was that several Distillery fans caught up with me after the game and said that we would have been deserved winners.”