McLellan and Chines hungry for Intermediate Cup glory
The main course of the Belfast Telegraph Championship One title race may have already been polished off with Carrick Rangers’ crowning at the weekend, but Friday’s Intermediate Cup final between the new champions and Harland & Wolff Welders (Seaview, 7.30pm) promises to serve up a sweet finish to the campaign.
Top of the menu is the mouthwatering prospect of two of the league’s most prolific goal-scorers doing battle once again. Between them, Carrick’s Miguel Chines and the Welders’ Michael McLellan have amassed a stunning 74 goals in all competitions.
In particular, it is McLellan’s historic tally of 47 which has been talk of the Championship and beyond, having broken his club’s all-time record for goals scored in a single match (nine), the number scored in a competition (18, in the Steel & Sons Cup), and the number scored in a season.
What a dream it would be for the prolific front-man to land a hat-trick and break through the 50-barrier. Yet, that is an after-thought, according to the man who has set this campaign’s goal charts on fire.
McLellan said: “At the very start of the season, if you’d told me I’d score 47, I would have laughed at you.
“I’d obviously be over the moon to get 50 goals, but what matters most is getting our hands on a trophy.”
McLellan denies it, but quietly, the Welders will surely feel they have something to prove on the big stage against the Amber Army. A painful 4-1 defeat to Carrick in this season’s Steel & Sons Cup final was followed up by a 4-0 thumping in February when the two then title contenders met again in the league.
Some have suggested that the Steel final may have been a pivotal moment in how the campaigns of the two clubs eventually panned out, but the Welders’ free-scoring striker feels too much should not be read into their previous encounters when assessing his team’s chances in this latest clash.
He stated: “That’s not necessarily right - we won seven games in a row before the Steel & Sons final and then won another seven after it. We just didn’t turn up on the day.
“As for the most recent match against them in the league, we had two players sent off that day, so it could have been a different game. This is another final, and we have to make sure we turn up this time. They are the team who got most points this season, so they deserve the title, and congratulations to them.
“I don’t think it’s about what Miguel or I do - it’s going to be two good teams going at it, and it will be the eleven on the pitch as well as those on the bench who decide it together.”
It’s difficult to say whether or not the Welders are facing Carrick at a good time. On the one hand, they will be buoyed by lifting the Championship title at the weekend, but on the other, McLellan and co will hope to catch them still in celebration mode.
Chines admitted: “There was six or seven of us hit the town on Saturday night for a few hours and had a few beers, but hopefully the celebrations will be longer lasting if we can win on Friday!
“I think we deserved to enjoy ourselves, we had a mountain to climb - 21 points behind the leaders at one stage. People doubted us, but we proved all them all wrong.
“There is no chance of us taking this lightly. We will be training hard for it this week. It has been a special achievement getting the double, but now we want the treble.
“This team is full of winners. They want to win every match, so it’s even better when there is a trophy at the end of it.”
It has been quite a journey from Lisbon to Carrick for the man who, at 22, turned up at Windsor Park of his own volition to ask David Jeffrey if he could play for Linfield, and now, after subsequent spells at Dungannon Swifts, Glenavon, and Knockbreda, is set to return to local football’s top division once again.
Chines remarked: “I haven’t even thought about next season yet. It’s only starting to sink in that we have won the league, and the main feeling I have is relief. But yes, one of the reasons I joined Carrick this season was because I knew they’d be challenging.
“It has just been great to repay the faith of people like Gary Haveron, Glenn Taggart and of course Michael Hughes, who all believed in me. Hopefully now, I can help get them another trophy.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital