Belfast Telegraph

Immaculata continue to give 100 per cent on all fronts

By Martin Mawhinney

Immaculata manager Kevin Lawlor believes that his club’s greatest strength may also be their greatest weakness… the simple fact that they refuse to be beaten.

A common complaint at Grosvenor Road each season is that the league fixture backlog is becoming difficult to manage, but as everyone knows, that is the price that any team pays for making progress in the cup competitions.

Year-on-year, the list of games stacks up for Lawlor and his men, and year-on-year, this special group of players have made a habit of picking up silverware. But after finishing fourth in their first ever Premier Division campaign last year, the Mac chief is setting his sights on the one he really wants… the league title.

Since their arrival on the Amateur League scene, Immaculata have become accustomed to table-topping, as they have raced their way up through the ranks to their current standing. But when it comes to the business of topping the top divisions… well, it is a case of the fewer distractions, the better.

At this level, that means the best way Immaculata can give themselves a chance of league glory is to be knocked out of other competitions. And therein lies the problem.

Lawlor said: “We start out the season with all these plans, but when it comes to the crunch, none of these players want to lose a game.

“We want to win the league this season, and very often, what you notice with the team that wins the league and the others who contest it, they go out of a lot of the cup competitions early on.

“So we start talking about how we might not take one competition or another so seriously this year… but as I say, when they get out there, it’s a different matter. They want to win every game. It’s not in our DNA to go out and lose a match.”

There are, of course, worse situations that Immaculata could find themselves in. But with seven points from only four games - half of both the points and games tally of current leaders Derriaghy CC, it’s looking likely that the Mac are going to find themselves in that ever-familiar game of catch-up once again.

Lawlor continued: “At least we are out of the Border Cup and the Steel & Sons Cup, and the Clarence Cup doesn’t start for another couple of months. But we are the holders of the Clarence, so we aren’t going to want to let go of that.

“When it comes down to it, you can’t send players out thinking you want to lose a match, because once you lose one, you can get yourself into a rut. I have seen it with other teams.”

Another competition that will surely appeal to the Mac is the Irish Cup. They are already in the third round, with a tie against Lower Maze that they will quietly back themselves to win, to put themselves within a game of reaching their second appearance in the fifth round in three seasons.

Back in 2013, it was Ards who knocked Immaculata out of local football’s premier cup competition, and this time the thought of drawing one of the top three or four teams will be the main motivation as they seek to build on a reputation that already spans further than the amateur game.

However, Lawlor added: “The league is the one we really want. We have already shown what we are capable of after beating the title holders Ards Rangers on the first day of the season. Sometimes our problem is beating the teams we feel we should be beating.

“There are no easy teams in this division, but at the same time, we fear no-one. We are out to win the Premier, and if we don’t do it this year, we’ll try again next year, and the year after that.”

Incredibly, Immaculata haven’t played league football since their 1-1 draw with Malachians on August 18. But when they host Kilmore Rec for their next Premier Division appearance this Saturday, the visitors had best prepare themselves for a tough afternoon.    

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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