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Irish FA grants extension of 2019-20 Irish League season until 31 July

Showgrounds to host Europa League clash
Uploaded Friday, 31st May, 2019 at 09:22

BALLYMENA Showgrounds is set to host Ballymena United's home European match this summer - the first game of its magnitude at the venue for 15 years.
The Sky Blues were given the green light to welcome their Europa League opponents to Mid & East Antrim after UEFA officials confirmed the stadium's revamped pitch met the competition's criteria. The move means United players and fans won't have to forsake home advantage by travelling to an alternative ground in Northern Ireland when they embark on their Euro adventure next month. The draw takes place on 11 June 2019.
Local fans have further reason to celebrate, too, with Mid & East Antrim Borough Council revealing they are in discussions around the staging of the UEFA Under-19 Men's competition in Ballymena next year. The announcements follow significant investment on the Ballymena Showgrounds surface, which was primarily carried out to ensure the pitch secured approval from European football's governing body.
Chairman of Ballymena United, John Taggart, said: "On behalf of Ballymena United FC, l would like to express the club's sincere thanks to the council who, once the European qualification was confirmed, committed to ensuring that the home leg of the tie would be played in Ballymena. The sincere thanks of the Ballymena United support is very much due to the Chief Executive Anne Donaghy and her senior management and those who through their drive and determination will ensure that for the first time since June 2004 we have a European game played at the Showgrounds. Hopefully this is the first of many similar games to be played in Ballymena.!
Anne Donaghy, Chief Executive of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, said: "This announcement is a great result for Ballymena United, the town, the borough and local football. The main aim of the major works at Ballymena Showgrounds were to ensure the pitch met European standards and we have achieved that with the issuing of a UEFA licence.
An extensive maintenance programme to improve the quality of the surface is well under way and the installation of a pitch cover and pitchside run-offs will help us to protect the surface better than ever before. We are looking forward to next season, which promises to be a brilliant one for local fans with United, Larne and Carrick Rangers all competing in the top flight.
I want to thank Ballymena United and their supporters for their patience, commitment and vision throughout the past year, as well as the local football fraternity and our community, and I pay credit to our staff and partners for their hard work as we continue to ensure our sporting venues, including the Showgrounds, are among the very best in Northern Ireland."
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