Harryville Homers and Rosemount Rec prepare for Junior Cup showdown
Rosemount Rec entered this season’s Junior Cup for the bus trips… and now they have one last one to cherish forever.
The plucky Greyabbey side have continually exceeded both their own expectations and those of local football in general, as they marched through the rounds of junior football’s most hotly-contested competition.
Today (Monday), they face their greatest challenge yet, in the Junior Cup final at Coagh United’s Hagan Park (2.30pm), against a Harryville Homers side eager to retain the trophy in their third successive final.
And while they are the undeniable outsiders on this occasion, that isn’t likely to have any influence on how they approach this crunch game. After all, it has had little bearing on most of their other games in the competition thus far.
Rosemount player manager Mark Miller stated: “I’ll just tell them to do what I always tell them - go out there, and give it everything. Leave nothing out there on the pitch, and have no regrets.
“I have to say, I am surprised that we have made it to the final. I think we all are. The aim for me this season was to finish mid-table, which we have done, and to go on a decent cup run. I just didn’t know it would be the Junior Cup.”
Miller was left with the daunting task of picking up the pieces for the Amateur League Division 2A club in the summer, when he was offered his first ever managerial post with just two weeks to go till the start of this season.
Back then, with a diminished squad in the aftermath of the departure of their previous manager, a Junior Cup final date in May would have been the last thing on anybody’s mind. And yet...
Miller said: “In the first round, we had a great trip to Newry to play Finn Harps, and we enjoyed it so much that we just wanted to get another big away trip. But we kept getting drawn at home.
“Then, when we got to the semi-final in Bangor against Hill Street, I told the players it was their cup final - by making it to the final now, they have guaranteed themselves a medal. I always think we play better without the favourites’ tag, but whatever happens, we will make sure to enjoy it.”
Of course, they will enjoy themselves even more if their leading goalscorer, who also happens to be their manager, can add to his tally of 28 goals for the season. Two in the final and he reaches the tally of 100 for his three seasons at Rosemount.
“I’ve already told my assistants Shane Mullan and Stephen McEvoy if I do that and we win the Junior Cup, that’ll be it for me,” added Miller. “I’ll be hanging my boots up!”
Funnily enough, Harryville Homers manager Robert Duddy takes a similar outlook towards his own role, should his own side triumph in today’s final.
He enthused: “I think it would be even more of an achievement if we could win it this year, as we have been losing players to injury week in, week out. I think I could happily retire if we won it again.”
Anyone who knows Duddy will know that simply isn’t the case. Here is a man who has been on a relentless trophy haul since taking over three years ago, and that trend is set to continue this season.
Already with the O’Kane Cup in the bag, the Ace Cup final to come, and still in the Rainey Cup, not to mention the fact they are very much in the box seat to claim this season’s Ballymena Saturday Morning League Division 1 title, it’s looking like there could well be no shortage of silverware for the Homers once again.
But the Junior Cup is the one they really want.
“This is the third time we have entered the Junior Cup, and it’s our third time reaching the final,” said Duddy. “It’s a terrific, terrific achievement… there is something like 300 teams at the start of the competition... but it would be a massive disappointment if we lose the final.”
Duddy, and the vast majority of his team, know that feeling only too well. Their defeat against back-to-back Junior Cup winners Strathroy Harps in the 2013 final is something they will not want to revisit this afternoon.
“It was heartbreaking,” admitted Duddy, “but we lost to the better team. If anything, I think it spurred us on.
“The players that played that day definitely learned from that experience and will be able to pass that on to the rest of the team.”
However, it is the players that have been missing which are causing Duddy most concern.
He stressed: “They have been dropping like flies, and it has all been key players. Darren Campbell - who got us 40 goals from centre midfield last season, David Gibson, and David McWhirter. We are also missing our left-back Ryan Stewart.
“Thankfully we have a good squad, and the players that have come in are doing a great job. But we have a lot of games still to come, and keeping the players fit will be the tough part.”
The Harryville boss admits he hasn’t seen his forthcoming opponents in action, but has been given various reports of what to expect.
He added: “I have heard a few mixed reviews. Apparently the semi-final wasn’t their best performance, but it is the result that matters and the same goes for the final.
“At the end of the day, it will all come down to who wants it most.”