Belfast Telegraph

Junior Cup: Carniny Rangers skipper Mo McDowell eyes glory

By Martin Mawhinney

Carniny Rangers skipper Mo McDowell insists he’s not even thinking about the club’s bitter rivals Harryville Homers as he sets his sights on getting the club’s first ever Coca-Cola Junior Cup this season.

The neighbouring Ballymena clubs, who literally play a matter of feet from each other on the town’s Wakehurst Playing Fields, both booked their place in the semi-finals of this year’s competition after respective extra time wins over the weekend.

And with both teams playing at home, it was impossible for either to ignore what was going on in the adjacent fixture, although McDowell did his best to keep the minds of his team-mates on the job in hand, as they edged out a 2-1 win over Lisbellaw United.

He remarked: “The pitches are about five or six steps from each other, so you could hear the cheers every time there was a goal.

“The Homers’ match went to extra time as well, but they got three goals in it, so some of their supporters started to filter over to our game. They probably fancy themselves against us, because they have already beaten us three times already this season, but they would probably rather have seen Lisbellaw put us out!

“We invited the Lisbellaw boys back to the pub afterwards, and they were all saying we would rather play the Homers in the final rather than the semis if we had the choice, but I really don’t care, either way. Both matches would be at a neutral venue anyway.

“One thing I do know, we are due a win against them.”

The rivalry between the two clubs was stoked up two years ago when they both reached the County Antrim Junior Shield final, only for Carniny manager Robert Young to report that he had unknowingly fielded an ineligible player in an earlier round. It then emerged that Harryville had committed a similar offence in that season’s competition, resulting in neither club contesting that year’s final.

With the pair joining Lisnarick and Windmill Stars in the last four, everyone connected with football in Ballymena will be watching this Wednesday’s draw with baited breath.

For McDowell, the Junior Cup represents a chance to overcome the disappointment of their exit from the Junior Shield to Castlewellan last weekend.

He said: “The boys were still coming to terms with the loss last weekend, and I think it just made them all the more determined to win on Saturday.

“We knew that, coming from the Fermanagh & Western League, Lisbellaw were always going to give us a tough match, but I think the two-hour journey they had in coming to us had an effect on them.

“They were slow to start, and I think it suited us playing into the wind in the second half… we played it along the deck a bit more.”

McDowell had a hand in both Carniny goals, putting in a cross for Richard Reid to stab home to equalise early in the second half, almost immediately after Lisbellaw’s opener. The captain also crossed in with five minutes of extra time left, leading an unfortunate opposition defender to shoot the ball into his own net.

A second yellow card and subsequent dismissal for Richard Culbertson left Carniny living on the edge in the closing stages, but they held out to progress.

In the day’s other quarter-finals, Harryville Homers beat Silverwood 5-2, Lisnarick defeated Killen Rangers 1-0 and Windmill Stars were 1-0 winners over St Paul’s.  

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