Harryville Homers' hunger keeping them on track for historic double
Harryville Homers manager Robert Duddy admits keeping his ultra-successful side hungry might be a challenge for most in his position… but it’s not likely to be an issue this season, as they chase junior football’s ultimate cup double.
Immaculata captured the IFA Junior Cup and CAFA Junior Shield in the same season back in 2009, while 44 years have passed since the famous Cromac Albion side did likewise, - and with three successive Ballymena Saturday Morning League Division One titles and two successive Junior Cups behind them, there is every reason to believe that the Homers can repeat that achievement this year.
With their Junior Cup quarter-final against Cumann Spoirt an Phobail (Wakehurst Playing Fields, 1.30pm) this Saturday, closely followed by a Junior Shield quarter-final trip to Greenisland the following weekend, competition for places is hotter than ever – an important recipe for success, according to Duddy.
“How you keep your players hungry… that’s your biggest fear,” revealed the Harryville boss. “Two years ago, we won everything (the league, Junior Cup, Ace Cup, Rainey Cup, O’Kane Cup, Top Four Cup, and the Football Writers’ Team of the Year award) and I thought, ‘how do you top this?’
“But you keep bringing in new faces, generating competition. Fortunately, our lot are pretty motivated. They are young, have time on their side, and want to keep getting better.”
And that’s bad news for the other clubs who stand in Harryville’s way. Duddy rightly says that his side won all the competitions they entered in 2013/2014, but back then, they weren’t in the Junior Shield. This season, the Homers already have their hands on the O’Kane Cup, are in the Top Four Cup final, and remain in all other competitions, so this season really could top the lot.
As a player for Rooftop in the 1980s, Duddy fondly recalls the dominant but now defunct Cromac Albion, and considers it an honour to have his current side compared in a similar light.
He said: “You have to keep to keep pinching yourself. I work in Belfast, and people are coming up to me and saying Harryville are the benchmark in junior football now. It really is a great wee compliment. ”
The benchmark that Harryville have set will be raised even higher if they can complete this unique double – but there are still a total of six games to be won across the two competitions to seal the deal. So how does Duddy rate his team’s chances of progressing to the semi-finals of each?
He remarked: “I honestly don’t know a lot about CSP, but what I do know is if they have got this far, they are a good team.
“As for Greenisland… Finaghy gave us a tough game in the Junior Cup – we only won 2-1 after extra time – so we thought they’d beat Greenisland in the last round of the Junior Shield. But they turned the tables on Finaghy, so we know we will have our work cut out to get past them.
“It would be an unbelievable achievement to win the Junior Cup and Junior Shield in the same season. I don’t know where we’d go after that! ”
Of course, one suggestion is that the team could push on to a higher level, perhaps, for example, the NIFL Championship and beyond? But for now, that idea seems to be off the table.
“I just can’t see it,” added Duddy. “There are too many obstacles in the way. It boils down to the logistics… and it might upset the apple-cart, playing our matches in the afternoons every week instead of the mornings.”
That may be a debate for another day, but for now, it’s clear that no matter what time of the day they play, Harryville Homers are going to take some stopping.