FOOTBALL COMMENT: The Ronnie McFall success story deserves to be lauded

END OF AN ERA: Ronnie McFall
END OF AN ERA: Ronnie McFall

Saturday’s Irish Cup defeat proved the final chapter in Ronnie McFall’s Portadown reign, a sad denouement of an epic tale of footballing legend.

Being knocked out by Championship 1 minnows Lurgan Celtic – courtesy of an injury time penalty – was not the farewell Europe’s longest-serving manager deserved.

It was the fatal blow in what had quickly become a maelstrom season for Portadown.

Struggling in seventh spot in the Danske Bank Premiership – with one win in their last 10 league games – Saturday’s cup malaise was the final straw for many fans – and for Ronnie.

Despite announcing before Christmas that this would be his last season at the helm, the curtain finally fell on Saturday.

Not only is it the end of a managerial reign, it is the end of an era in Irish League football.

Ronnie is a colossus of the game, a man who delivered 23 trophies during almost three decades at Shamrock Park – including four league titles and three Irish Cups.

The 70-year-old took charge of 1480 games, moulding Portadown into a provincial force to rival the so-called ‘Big Two’ of Linfield and Glentoran.

Ronnie’s reign should be celebrated at Shamrock Park, not determined by the twilight years of underachievement.

But on Saturday there was no fanfare or standing ovations.

There were no toasts to a man who revolutionised Portadown Football Club.

Instead, it was a swift and discreet exit with proud wife Anne by his side.

The old cliché is that football is a results-based business, and Portadown have fallen woefully short in recent times.

It is also the manager who gets the bullet when results suffer.

On Saturday Ronnie fell on his own sword, but it shouldn’t be a time for vitriol or barbed criticism.

It should be a time to reflect on the reign of a man whose record speaks for itself.

Hopefully in time Ronnie gets the kudos he richly deserves.