Ballymoney Blaze continue their preparations for the CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup which gets underway in October with the news that they will play a double header in Kosovo, writes GILLIAN ANDERSON.
The Ballymoney Club qualified for Europe having finished runners-up in the league and winning the Northern Ireland Volleyball Cup for the first time in the club’s history.
It is over eight years since a team from Northern Ireland competed in the Challenge Cup, the last team were the University of Ulster who participated in the 2007-2008 edition of the Cup.
Representing Northern Ireland is a great honour for the Blaze and all the players,coaches and officals within the club are doing their utmost to ensure they will do the club, town and country proud when they take on the best in Europe.
It’s not all about the training for Ballymoney Blaze. The cost of competing on a European stage is high and the club have been working hard to fund raise and attract sponsorship.
“It’s been eight years since the last Northern Ireland team competed in the Confederations Cup,”explained Coach Johnny McClenaghan. “It will cost a minimum of £2000 before we even touch a ball and all of that will be self funded. Then we have to pay for our flights and accommodation for the away game, plus entirely new kits. So it’s going to be a costly venture.”
Coach McClenaghan continued: “So far preparations for Europe are going well, we’ve raised over £2,000 after a small grant from the Ballymoney Sports Advisory Committee, however, we still have a few fundraisers to go.
“We are waiting to hear from a few potential sponsors, so fingers crossed things work out. We’ve asked for £700 to be a kit sponsor as this would pay for a full kit. We need a home kit, an away kit and training/casual wear which is quite expensive for a small club like ours. Hopefully we will hear back from a few people this week.”
Despite the first leg of the cup being a month away, the lads from Blaze have been training hard.
“Training started about six weeks ago,” added Johnny. “It’s easily the earliest we’ve ever started training, so we should be in great shape come the start of the league in two weeks.
“I held trials for our men’s First and Second squads on Monday 14th September. Last year we ended up with a lot of new players coming to training, which made for a huge skill gap at every session and made it very difficult to have higher quality sessions for our first team, so trials should allow us to place players into the correct group for training, meaning I can push the first team harder.
“Fixtures for the league come out this week, we’ll be looking to go one step further than last year to match the performances of 2010 when we won the league.