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Ballymena United Football Secretary Don Stirling pictured with his IRN-BRU IRN Man award

STIRLING EFFORT WINS IRN MAN AWARD

BALLYMENA United Secretary Don Stirling is the IRN Man Award winner following the Quarter-Finals of the IRN-BRU League Cup.

The IRN Man Award is chosen after each round by IRN-BRU's Phenomenal Footy Panel (made up of local football writers) to celebrate the heroes of the local game.

Don, who has been involved at Ballymena United for more than four decades, defied ill-health to quite literally go the extra mile for his club.

Discharged from hospital on the Friday, Don was unable to attend the following day's league match.

Nothing, however, was going to prevent him making the 60-mile trip Castlederg for the IRN-BRU League Cup Quarter-Final.

"We [Ballymena] hadn't won a trophy for 22-years and there was a real buzz in the town about the IRN-BRU League Cup," said Don.

"I travelled to the match against Dergview but because of roadworks the match was 12-minutes old when I eventually got there.

"I asked the guy on the door what the score was and he said 2-0. To Ballymena, I said. No to Dergview! At that point I thought maybe I should have stayed at home."

Fortunately for Don the Premier Division side rallied, eventually defeating the only Championship team left in the competition 6-2 to set up a semi-final with Crusaders.

It was to prove the end of both Ballymena's cup run (Crusaders progressing to meet Coleraine in January's final) and the reign of the club's manager, Roy Walker.

However, the former Ballymena United boss was quick to pay tribute to the latest IRN Man Award winner: "Stirling by name, stirling by nature. His name sums up his efforts.

"As football secretaries go there aren't many more diligent, interested, or knowledgeable.

"With his ill-health we have missed Don over the past few weeks. His experience in the game is second to none and he really has the club's interests at heart. He's a top bloke."