Mid-Ulster clubs top social media standings during coronavirus lockdown

Matthew Tipton
Portadown manager Matthew Tipton has been posting training videos online

Mid-Ulster clubs are leading the way when it comes to Irish League clubs keeping in touch with their fans - and others - during the current lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Portadown, Glenavon and Dungannon Swifts are blazing a trail on their social media outlets, particularly Twitter, as they stay connected despite inactivity on the pitch.

Championship club Portadown have several daily postings and take top marks for the rich treasure trove of classic archive material they have been featuring almost every day.

In addition to the action, which is well worth visiting to reignite memories from the Shamrock Park club's glorious past, there is loads of memorabilia including copies of newspaper cuttings reporting key matches from yesteryear to features on former players.

This includes remarkable goalkeeper Mickey Keenan who won four league titles and played for the club well into his forties.

Other great names to feature in the club's throwback features include Trevor Anderson, Gary Blackledge, Brian Morrison, Martin Malone, Stevie Cowan and Gary McCutcheon.

Manager Matthew Tipton's training videos for young players on the club's YouTube site have also proved popular.

At nearby Glenavon, the club's Covid-19 Response Initiative is in full swing with regular updates. Their Mourneview Park ground has been a drop off point for vital supplies which are being distributed to those most in need during these difficult times.

The players, like everywhere else, have been forced to train alone and are featuring in a push-up challenge, while a skills challenge is being enthusiastically tackled by Academy players.

Dungannon Swifts also hit the heights with their use of social media to reach out. The club's Charitable Trust organises cooked meals for people most at need in the community and gives updates.

Swifts boss Kris Lindsay, captain Dougie Wilson, stalwarts Terry Fitzpatrick and Dixie Robinson, head of youth development, have all featured in question and answer sessions with fans posting what they want their heroes to talk about.

In several club streams former defender Gerry Flynn, who has lived in the Murcia region of Spain for the past decade, pops up with his hugely entertaining recollections of his time in the Irish League.

A league winner with Cliftonville in 1998, he lifted the Irish Cup with Coleraine in 2003 as well as later playing and managing Newry City.

He has also posted daily updates on how the lockdown has impacted on life in the town of Los Alcazares, where he is based.

Things have been slightly quieter on the Twitter accounts of other clubs. Several run weekly quizzes. Nostalgia works best when we are grounded, so it seems. Most clubs have gone down that route.

Glentoran have featured former stars such as Rab McCreery and John Devine. There is a re-run of highlights featuring the 1988/9 League Cup decider against Linfield when Glens' stopper Alan Paterson became the first goalkeeper in British football to score the winning goal in a cup final.

In addition to the nostalgic footage there are also plenty of clips from recent games too.

Supporters have also been getting in on the act, with Solitude brought to life by one fan's impressive recreation of Cliftonville's home. It's all thanks to Subbuteo and the immense patience of Reds devotee Chris McGuigan.

Linfield have brought us eight-year-old 2011s player Luke Dalzell managing an amazing 112 'keepy uppies', and there has been golden footage of Barcelona's visit to Windsor Park for a 1971 Cup Winners' Cup tie against Distillery.

Coleraine have reconnects with former players such as Greg O'Dowd and David Ogilby, plus a chat with recent signing Curtis Allen. Fans were requested for anecdotes from the club's European games against Zurich Grasshoppers in 1997.

Larne fans have enjoyed a live Q&A with striker Johnny McMurray with Dean Jarvis next in line. They have been able to see young supporter Shannon Dougherty's staggered marathon in aid of the Tiny Life Charity raise more than £5,000.

Along with a series of podcasts, there is first-team player Andy Mitchell sharing how he copes in lockdown as well as a look back at some of the season's highlights from 'Inside Inver.'

Past and present action is also a Crusaders choice on social media while at Warrenpoint Town there is a re-run of former player Lee Duffy's RTE interview about his recovery from Covid-19, as well as updates on food deliveries to the area's elderly.

Carrick Rangers keep their quizzes running, Institute celebrate a new arrival and an award for their temporary home, the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium.

Ballymena United mirror several clubs in their support of our over-worked NHS staff and they recently announced two-year contract extensions for manager David Jeffrey and assistant Bryan McLoughlin.