Irish League clubs score in Malawi

MORE commonly donning the walls of dressing rooms across the province every Saturday, the jerseys of ten top Irish League clubs will be hanging from pegs in Malawi this week.

Local clubs - including the Big Two Linfield and Glentoran - threw their weight behind an appeal for teams to donate shirts which will be displayed in a sports shop in the African country.

The idea was the brainchild of Rev Ian McNie from Trinity Presbyterian Church who approached former Irish League manager Liam Beckett to ask for his assistance.

And Ballymoney man Liam was only too happy to help, delving into his list of contacts to seek their support for the project.

In all nine Premier clubs sent Liam a replica of their first team shirts including Linfield, Glentoran, Cliftonville, Ballymena United, Coleraine, Portadown, Crusaders, Lisburn Distillery and Dungannon Swifts.

And Championship outfit Institute popped a full kit in the post, much to the delight of Liam.

The shirts were taken back to Malawi with Alex Banda - manager of the sport store - who had been visiting Northern Ireland over the new year period.

Liam told the Times: "The Rev McNie came to see me about the possibility of getting some shirts for Alex's shop.

"I contacted all the Irish Premier League clubs and I am delighted with the response.

"Nine sent me shirts, a number of which were signed by the players.

"They will be heading to Malawi with Alex to be displayed over there which is tremendous.

"It's a fantastic gesture which reflects wonderfully on our province and on the Irish League."

Liam is no stranger to such charity work having sent footballs to Rwanda on numerous occassions in the past.

And he has just thawed out having braved the sub-zero temperatures over Christmas when he endured a week-long sit-out in his role as Ballymoney's Black Santa in order to raise funds for local causes.

A delighted Alex thanked Liam, Rev McNie and all those who had supported the soccer shirt venture.

chris,kilpatrick@jpress.co.uk