Belfast Telegraph

Silverwood United keep their eyes on a title tilt

By Martin Mawhinney

They may not be taking part in the most prized competition in all of junior football this season, but Silverwood United manager Stephen Toman believes he can turn adversity to his team’s advantage.

The Lurgan men have been banned from competing in this Junior Cup after fielding an ineligible player in last year’s tournament, yet neither the gaffer nor his players will allow themselves to get too downhearted about it.

It may be something of an overused cliché, common among teams knocked out of the cups early on, but in the case, when Toman says he wants to use his team’s absence from the Junior Cup as a motivation to help them focus on the league, you get the impression he really means it.

“Of course we are not happy about not being in the Junior Cup,” he admitted. “It’s a big competition, and we got all the way to the quarter-final last year.

“But there is a chance for us to turn a negative into a positive here, so we will be doing everything we can to take it.”

In fact, Silverwood have a case to believe they could have beaten the eventual winners Harryville Homers in the last eight last year, having pushed them all the way to extra time, after being reduced to ten men in the opening exchanges of the tie.

But that is firmly in the past, and Silverwood will strive to, at the very least, make a defence of the Gerard Kennedy Cup and a serious push for the Division 1 title.

If they don’t manage to lift the league trophy this season, it may hurt them more than ever this time around. Some may see it as highly ambitious for Silverwood to be targeting title glory, but they have certainly been ‘in the conversation’ in the past couple of seasons.

Not only did the club land its first ever piece of silverware in over a decade with the Mid Ulster Shield in Spring of last year, but they have now been the Division 1 runners-up for the past two seasons.

Last season, in particular, they will feel unfortunate not to have won title honours after closing a 29-point gap to eventual champions Hill Street down to just two points in their final 11 games of the season.

And it would seem the vast majority of the players who have been on this journey with Toman want to help him see his title dream through. Almost all of last season’s side have remained, and the group has been further strengthened with the arrival of the likes of Jonny Torode from Celtic Club No.1 and John Campbell from Lurgan Celtic.

And even in the area where they faced the possibility of being weakened – between the sticks – Silverwood are still looking strong. Ex-Dromara Village goalkeeper Bobby McKerr has come in for long-serving shot-stopper Michael Gough, who has since moved on to Lurgan Celtic.

No wonder Toman believes this is his team’s best title chance yet.

The Silverwood boss added: “Hill Street went out of a few cup competitions early last season, and it meant that they were able to play out their league campaign in good time, whereas we had to squeeze 12 matches into something like 10 days. When you look at it, we did well to finish as strongly as we did.

“We are in a strong position to put in an even stronger challenge this year.”

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