Junior Cup: Support could be the deciding factor as Lisnarick look to snatch Harryville's favourite tag
They are the clear standout favourites of this year’s Coca-Cola Junior Cup, but Harryville Homers boss Robert Duddy is keen to play down his side’s chances against Lisnarick in Monday night’s semi-final (Stangmore Park, Dungannon, 7.45pm).
Yet he isn’t so modest to dismiss the fact that his team are heavily fancied for this clash against the tournament’s undeniable outsiders.
“I don’t see us as the favourites,” remarked Duddy.
“Just a year wiser from our defeat in last year’s final.
“Lisbellaw and Windmill Stars (the other semi-finalists) have both won it before, so if anything, that makes them the favourites.
“I’m not going to lie, out of the three teams left, we would probably have chosen to play Lisnarick. Their league form has been pretty average… but you can’t judge it on that when it comes to a game like this. It’s a complete one-off.”
Duddy will be doing his best to instill that message into his players, but he may have his work cut out quelling the enthusiasm of the club’s diehard supporters.
The Ballymena men have a strong support base to rival any other club at this level, and the Harryville gaffer has been quick to praise those who regularly come to cheer on their team, for their part in helping them reach the final.
He added: “We have really have turned Wakehurst into a fortress, and we are getting a fantastic turnout at our matches. Everyone has bought into it, and when you look up and down the line, you see everyone wearing a Homers hat or raincoat.
“They aren’t only at home either, there is a big travelling support too. We even have our own team of scouts, with supporters saying they will go and watch whoever we play the next week.
“It would be great for them all if we could give them a day out at the final.”
Standing in Harryville’s way, Fermanagh & Western Division Two outfit Lisnarick will be out to cause an upset – and their manager is backing them all the way.
A club man, on and off for the best part of the last two decades, and one of several hundred people who live in Lisnarick village itself, Warren Holden would dearly love to ensure it is his club’s supporters who have that May Day showpiece to look forward to, and has dismissed all talk of his side being the underdogs.
He said: “There is no such thing as favourites at this stage – we are here on merit. I’d be delighted if we could repeat our performance against Londonderry BBOB in the fifth round.
“We were 1-0 down in that, turned it round to 2-1, then after they equalized, we battled on to get a winner in the last 10 minutes. That showed a lot of character, and if we can do something like that again, we will give ourselves a real chance.”
One particularly interested supporter will have more reason than most to have his fingers tightly-crossed for success.
Pete Keogh was assistant manager at Lisnarick 38 years ago, when the club reached the quarter-finals – up until this season, the furthest they had ever ventured in the Junior Cup.
All that Holden is asking is that his team give Keogh and his fellow fans something to cheer about… anything above that will be a bonus.
He added: “If we come away having given 100%, we will not be disappointed… and if we can do that, we just might get the result we are after.
“You have to start believing, otherwise what is the point in getting this far?”
Belfast Telegraph Digital