Deery chasing fairytale finish for Institute starlets
Institute manager Kevin Deery is two games away from securing a fairytale ending to one of this season's most unlikely stories.
Tonight, the Drumahoe club host Ballinamallard United in the first leg of the Promotion/Relegation Play-Off, with the second leg at Ferney Park on Tuesday.
If Stute can upset the odds and defeat Whitey Anderson's men, they will secure a place in next season's Danske Bank Premiership, despite having started the Championship One campaign with four defeats from five outings.
"It was an horrendous start to the season," recalled Deery. "After seven games we had only taken four points and people were talking about a relegation battle. We seemed to be stuck in 12th position for an eternity.
"In fairness, we lost four of those games 1-0 and on each occasion we dominated possession.
"But once we got our first win of the season, things started to fall into place and we went on a 13-game unbeaten run in the league."
That sequence took them into fifth place which, due to Harland & Wolff Welders, Armagh City and Knockbreda not applying for a Promotion Licence, was sufficient to earn Stute a play-off berth.
On Monday night, they made short work of Championship One winners Ards in the Intermediate Cup final, winning 3-1 at Windsor Park and vindicating Deery's faith in youth.
He explained: "When I took the job I had to make my mind up. Did I want to sign players who had been there before or did I want to give young players from the local area a chance?
"I'm an admirer of technical talent so I went with a group of young lads and it has paid off. They're full of energy and enthusiasm. It's refreshing for me as a coach to see such enthusiasm for the game. Once one game is down, they just want to play another match."
Deery's side have developed a reputation for playing passing football, but he denied that his team of youngsters are naive.
"We do like to play the ball out from the back and we have a reputation for playing passing football, but we're not naive about it in any way. We can get the ball forward quickly and go more direct if we have to. We know how to mix it up," he added.
"It will be a tough game against Ballinamallard, but the lads will just treat it the same as any other match."
Danske Bank Premiership play-off:
Riverside Stadium, 7.45pm