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Tuesday 3rd October v. Lisburn Distillery (home) - BetMcLean League Cup rd1 - k.o: 7:45pm

Lisburn Distillery Match Preview

Page 1 (1928-1946) | Page 2 (1946-1969) | Page 3 (1970-1978) | Page 4 (1979-1989) | Page 5 (1989-2008)

THE GLORY YEARS (1979-1989)
Ballymena United In 1981 With The County Antrim Shield And Ulster Cup
During the 1978/79 season Johnston made way for the arrival of Alan Campbell and he moulded arguably one of the best United teams of recent years, who would constantly challenge for honours and even came second in the Irish League in 1979/1980. This meant qualification for the UEFA Cup for the first time and a first (and only) win in Europe against East-German outfit FC Vorwaerts, only losing narrowly in the second leg.
On route to a early season cup game against Ards, manager Alan Campbell was involved in a car accident which meant that managerial duties had to be passed over to his assistant, Ivan Murray, on a caretaker basis as Campbell recovered from his horrific accident.
The following season seen a remarkable United side finish third and lift both the Irish Cup and the County Antrim Shield in the one campaign. The Irish Cup win over Glenavon was by a single Paul Malone strike at Windsor Park. Current Northern Ireland manager, Nigel Worthington was transferred to Notts County for a club record £125,000 fee after the Irish Cup win; United had also lost influential midfielder Gerry Mullan to Everton earlier in the season.
The reward for the Cup win was a Cup Winners' Cup tie against Italian giants AS Roma, the Sky Blues fought valiantly but succumbed to the relentless pressure of the multi-million pound side and lost 6-0 on aggregate.
Ivan Murray took over from Alan Campbell who resigned in January 1982, but failed to reproduce the team's best form and was duly dismissed to be replaced by former Crusaders boss Ian Russell - who many thought would definitely bring success back to Warden Street.
Ballymena United Celebrate 1989 Irish Cup Win
Russell failed to take the Sky Blues to the next level, despite bringing Northern Ireland goalkeeper Jim Platt back home and also seen the late George Best turn out for the Sky Blues in a Friendly against Scottish side Motherwell. Russell barely lasted six months at the Showgrounds before being sacked by the trigger happy board.
After Ian Russell's departure, it was Jim Platt who took over as player-manager at the Showgrounds and United, inspired by Sion Mills teenager Johnny Speak, defeated Carrick Rangers in the Irish Cup Final in 1984. However after becoming the first United player to win a full International cap since 1933 - he unceremoniously left to take up the managers role at bitter rivals Coleraine.
Alan Campbell returned for his second spell in June 1984, but left after only one season due to a combination of poor results and the fans treatement of his son; Alan Campbell Jnr. However in that season Ballymena suffered what the press described as "One of the most embarrassing results in the club's history" - losing in both legs to Maltese minnows Hamrun Spartans in the First Round of the Cup Winners' Cup.
Soon after this, tragedy struck the Braid and the Irish League as Brian Crockard, United's outstanding young defender died tragically whilst on holiday, Crockard, a former United player of the year, is still remembered to this day having the player's lounge named after him at the Showgrounds.
Jimmy Brown took the reigned from the departed Campbell in May 1985, but despite two full seasons in charge at Warden Street he couldn't turn the team's fortunes with only a single County Antrim Shield Final appearance to show for his troubles, he resigned in September 1987 after a humiliating defeat to Larne.
In stepped former Reserve Team boss Alex McKee, with John Garrett as his assistant fired the Sky Blues to the Irish Cup the following season, defeating Larne in a lack-lustre showpiece final in which Paul Hardy proved to be the winner with a cheeky back-heel past Vince Magee in the Larne goal. The reward for the win was a plum tie against Belgian giants RSC Anderlecht - who proceeded to give United a footballing masterclass the following season, winning 10-0 on aggregate.
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