Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

St Oliver Plunkett fancy cup chances against struggling East Belfast

St Oliver Plunkett's manager Liam Hunter is happy with the way things are going this season
St Oliver Plunkett's manager Liam Hunter is happy with the way things are going this season

They may be three divisions below their opponents this Saturday, but St Oliver Plunkett are quietly confident they can turn that statistic on its head when they face East Belfast in the Clarence Cup third round.

The visit to Inverary Avenue has come at a time when the East potentially stand a matter of days from becoming one of the first Amateur League teams to face relegation this season.

And while Plunkett boss Liam Hunter would be foolish to expect anything other than a tricky test, even in the circumstances, he is also not afraid to make public his expectations from this intriguing cup clash.

He told The Park: “East Belfast are struggling big time, and we would fancy our chances.

“There’s no doubt, it would still be an upset. But there are still a lot of clubs in the lower leagues still in the Clarence Cup this year… I think there is a lot more quality all over these days.”

What does Hunter put that improved standard down to? Well, he may be unable to account for other clubs, but he can answer for his own.

“Our youth set-up has been second to none,” he stated. “We have good players coming through the club all the time.

“The team we have at the minute has been together for the last four years, and they all know each other’s game well.

“Out of our Under-17s and Under-18s, we had six who went across the water and there are four or five who have played Schoolboy Internationals on Sky Sports. These things are a massive experience for the lads.”

Oliver Plunkett have always had a rich tradition of producing top class talent, with players like Jim Magilton, Paul McVeigh, Phil Mulryne and Anton Rogan all having come through the club at various stages over the years.

That pool has arguably become greater than ever, with up to 200 young footballers representing the club each week, whether that be through mini-soccer, the new girls’ team, or the different youth teams from Under-9 to Under-19 level.

When it comes to the short term future, things are looking promising for the club too, with the potential for moving up to Intermediate football a distinct possibility after the instalment of new changing rooms at their Millenium Park home in Lenadoon.

Further progress in the Clarence Cup and a strong finish in their Division 2A campaign would be yet more reasons to be cheerful, and Hunter believes his team can fulfil their aims on both fronts.

He said: “We have been targeting a top two finish this season, and with nine games left, we are confident that they are all winnable. Everyone has been beaten this year, and a few of the top teams have still to come to Lenadoon.

“The Clarence Cup draw has been a bit kinder to us than normal, and we have a Cochrane Corry quarter final to look forward to. Things are going well.”     

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