Carrick Rangers end their season by sealing unforgettable treble
Carrick Rangers secured their place in history on Friday night by completing the intermediate treble.
A Conor McCloskey-inspired Rangers blew Harland & Wolff Welders away in extra time at Seaview, winning the Intermediate Cup final 3-1. The Intermediate Cup trophy now sits proudly in the Taylor's Avenue boardroom alongside the Steel & Sons Cup and the Belfast Telegraph Championship One trophy.
An exuberant delighted Gary Haveron said: “It’s hard to put it into words.
“I always said this team would be relentless in their pursuit of points and that’s exactly what they’ve done. These guys just kept going and going and going, right into extra time in the last game of the season. They were still fighting right until the last kick.
“The energy and the legs this team have is something else. You look at the performances of Aaron Harmon and Conor McCloskey in the final and it tells you everything you need to know. Glenn Taggart hadn’t kicked a ball in two months and he slots into the back four for the final and is superb.
“It was tough for the Welders. I feel for them. Two defeats in two cup finals must be hard to take. But listen, it was all about us. We focused on our goals this season and we achieved every one of them.”
After a dull first half Miguel Chines gave Carrick the lead on the hour mark. A long kick forward from goalkeeper Brian Neeson was flicked on by Adam Dick. The header sent Chines through on goal and drilled a low shot into the bottom corner from 10 yards out.
The Welders equalised four minutes later when Paul Dickson picked out Michael McLellan, who evaded the Carrick defence before slotting the ball home, via the inside of the post.
The Welders were reduced to ten men in the 78th minute. Talented midfielder Mark Magennins hit out at Carrick’s Aaron Smyth. It was a key decision at a key time in the cup final, but referee Evan Boyce made the correct call to produce the red card.
In the first minute of extra time, Carrick midfielder Kyle Cherry split the Welders defence with a fine forward pass, which Conor McCloskey controlled before he blasted the ball into the net from 15 yards out with a superb finish. McCloskey added a third, 10 minutes later, when he chipped the ball over Michael Dougherty from the edge of the penalty box.
Carrick coach Haveron raved about the former Portadown man’s performance.
“I’m so pleased for Conor. He deserves every accolade that comes his way because he’s such a talented boy. Now I’ve a problem, because I have to try and hold onto him. He’s a special talent who is capable of big moments, so it’s no surprise he’s on a few people’s radar.”
The question for Carrick is, can they carry this form into the Premiership? Four years ago they won both the Championship title and the Intermediate Cup, only to finish rock bottom of the top flight the following season.
Can the class of 2015 do better? Gary Haveron certainly thinks so.
“Why not? We’ve done it in every big game we’ve played this season. These guys are full of potential. It’s been an incredible season.”
There is more good news for Carrick fans this week. The club are believed to be quietly confident that Taylor’s Avenue will be ready for the first game of the Premiership season in August and Seaview was merely registered as a back-up plan.
If Carrick can hold onto players like Conor McCloskey and get Taylor’s Avenue passed for the big kick-off, then the Amber Army have every reason to be optimistic about taking on the big boys.