Byrne cleared for Ports debut

Eoin Kirwan, Mikey Withers and Nathaniel Ferris celebrating Portadown's midweek League Cup win. Pic by Pacemaker.
Eoin Kirwan, Mikey Withers and Nathaniel Ferris celebrating Portadown's midweek League Cup win. Pic by Pacemaker.

Alan Byrne is in line for a weekend debut as Portadown attempt to stop the rot following three successive Danske Bank Premiership defeats with the visit of Carrick Rangers to Shamrock Park.

The 33-year-old defensive midfielder wrapped up a deal with the Ports this week and confirmed international clearance puts Byrne in contention for a first appearance at Irish League level.

Byrne and Ports boss Pat McGibbon previously spent time together at Monaghan United and it is hoped that an extra physical presence in the heart of midfield can help kick-start the league season after frustrating results against Ards, Glentoran and Crusaders.

Portadown directors are expected to stand before the Irish Football Association Appeals’ Board on September 12 to discuss a 12-point league deduction and suspension.

McGibbon, however, accepts his sole focus must remain on events under his control rather than allow off-the-field issues to dominate the dressing room.

“Everyone is aware of the situation but we can only worry about what happens on the pitch,” said McGibbon. “I am delighted to get Alan on board and his international transfer clearance has been confirmed, so he will come into the weekend squad against Carrick Rangers.

“Alan has plenty of experience and is someone I know well from our time together at Monaghan United.

“He has that drive and will-to-win that will be so important for the squad, especially as we try to get points on the board as quickly as possible.

“Alan will allow other players to get forward into more advanced positions and, hopefully, improve our attacking threat.

“We have lost to Ards in the closing seconds, suffered defeat by a single goal against Glentoran then showed a lot of heart away to defending champions Crusaders.

“The goals conceded would be considered preventable but, overall, I am happy with the desire on show.

“We want to put away more of the chances created and, given the situation in the league, this weekend’s match with Carrick is a big game.”

Rangers visit Shamrock Park aiming to improve a return of four points from five league fixtures - with boss Kieran Harding making a return to the club he served for over a decade as assistant manager to Ronnie McFall.

Both left Portadown in the aftermath of last season’s shock Irish Cup exit to Lurgan Celtic, with McGibbon stepping in as caretaker manager before gaining the role on a permanent basis.

The Ports enjoyed a welcome return to form in the midweek League Cup defeat of Donegal Celtic - as six scorers each found the net in a 6-1 victory that helped ease the pain of Danske Bank Premiership disappointment.

“Although it must be put into context, the result should act as a boost for the club after those league frustrations,” said McGibbon. “It helps give everyone a lift off a pleasing attacking performance.”

Portadown season ticket holders can bring along a friend for free this weekend.