IRISH LEAGUE: Darren Murphy thanks the man who gave him his big break – Ronnie McFall

Darren Murphy
Darren Murphy

Former Irish League midfielder Darren Murphy believes Ronnie McFall’s exit will leave a “massive void” in local football.

McFall resigned as Portadown boss on Saturday following a shock 3-2 defeat to Lurgan Celtic in the Irish Cup.

It brought the curtain down on a glittering 29-year reign at Shamrock Park, one that reaped 23 trophies including four league titles and three Irish Cups.

McFall took charge of 1480 games during almost three decades with the Ports, and was the manager who gave Murphy his Irish League debut in the mid-1990s.

“I will always be in debt to Ronnie for giving me my chance in the league,” said Murphy, who also had spells with Glenavon, Linfield and Dungannon Swifts.

“I was only a teenager at the time and it was my big chance. Ronnie paved the way for me to have a career in the Irish League.

“He is a legend of the game, and his record speaks for itself.

“I used to go and watch Portadown as a fan. I was there the day they beat Linfield 2-0 to win the league, and the time they beat Glenavon 2-1 to win the Irish Cup.

“So to then play for Portadown was fantastic, and Ronnie gave me that chance.”

Murphy – who is currently an Elite Performance Coach with the Irish FA – believes McFall’s reign should be lauded.

“It has been a disappointing season for Portadown, and a lot of people seem to want to dwell on that,” he added.

“But you have to look back on the 29 years Ronnie was in charge, and the trophies he won, and then it puts things into perspective.

“As a player and manager he spent close to 50 years with Portadown. He has given his heart and soul to the club.

“I think a lot of the fans who wanted Ronnie out should appreciate what he did for the club.

“Ronnie transformed Portadown into a team that was challenging for trophies. He took on the Belfast clubs, and he won the battle on many occasions.”

Murphy admits he turned to McFall when he became boss of Dungannon Swifts, and says the legendary manager was a font of knowledge that helped him in his career.

“He was a great help to me,” Murphy added.

“He always gave me great advice and I appreciated it.

“There are so many former players, and current ones, who owe Ronnie a debt of gratitude. And you can see from a lot of the comments and tributes made, that everyone appreciates the role he played.”

Murphy also believes filling the shoes of McFall at Shamrock Park will be a bigger job than succeeding David Jeffrey at Linfield.

“Ronnie was at Portadown for almost 30 years. He created a dynasty at Shamrock Park,” Murphy said.

“He built a team to win four titles and three Irish Cups, and countless other trophies.

“He changed the whole mind-set of Portadown Football Club, and football in Mid Ulster, and he brought success to the area.

“It is a massive job for whoever comes in to replace Ronnie. At the same time it is a great opportunity for someone.

“Portadown is a big club and has a lot of potential.”

Murphy hopes McFall remains in the game in some capacity.

“I am not sure if he will return to management, but we need Ronnie in the game,” he added.

“He is a character of local football, and we need people like Ronnie.

“It will be strange for Ronnie. Walking away after 29 years will be difficult. He will probably notice it on Tuesday night. He will think about training and then realise ‘I am not going in tonight’.

“It will hit him.”