It's deja vu as Rosemount and Harryville battle for Junior Cup once again
Harryville Homers manager Robert Duddy admits his players are motivated to become record breakers every time they take to the field… and that sense will be greater than ever when they line up against Rosemount Rec in the Junior Cup final at Windsor Park today (Monday, 2.30pm).
The Wakehurst Park men took a huge step towards a historic double as they lifted their first ever Toals County Antrim Junior Shield by beating Newcastle & District League side Ballyvea on Wednesday night.
Now, if they can capture this season’s Junior Cup, they will not only emulate the double-winning achievement of Immaculata in 2009, but they will also equal the Mac’s record of three successive Junior Cup wins.
And, as Duddy reveals, the subject has come up more than once.
The Harryville boss smiled: “We’ve played them during pre-season and the banter between the two teams is fierce.
“I know a few of their players have been in touch online, saying that they think we will beat their record… I hope they’re right!”
The clash is the Homers’ latest in a jam-packed fixture schedule that sees them also bidding to add the Ballymena Saturday Morning League Division One title, Ace Cup and Rainey Cup to the O’Kane Cup and Junior Shield already safely in the trophy cabinet.
But player exhaustion is far from a concern for Duddy, who has become accustomed to pushing his team at this congested period of the season.
He continued: “This is actually the longest break we have had over the last few weeks. We have been playing Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, so it’s been nice to take a break since the Junior Shield final.
“We have enough players to re-jig things and keep them fresh. The bigger problem for me is selecting 16 players out of 24.”
This year’s final is a repeat of last season’s Junior Cup showpiece, when Rosemount lost 3-1 after taking an early lead - and Duddy believes that experience will make them a threat.
“It’s not a nice feeling, losing the Junior Cup final,” he said. “We had that in my first season in charge. They will be fired up, and the fact that it’s at Windsor will just add to that.”
Rosemount Rec player-manager Mark Miller agrees that playing the game at Northern Ireland’s footballing home will add to the occasion. But he doesn’t want that to be a consideration in his team-mates’ minds as they take to the pitch.
Miller told The Park: “For us, it is about not playing the occasion, but playing our best game. If everyone does that, I can’t see how we don’t give ourselves a chance.
“Everyone is buzzing about playing at Windsor Park - it’s a one-off, and most of the players will know they won’t get this sort of chance again. I played there with Carrick a long time ago, but the place has changed a fair bit since then and so have I… I don’t know if the old legs will hold out!”
At 31, Miller is a little harsh on himself, especially as he is amongst the major attacking threats the Greyabbey side possess.
And he believes that he has seen indications in recent weeks to suggest they may be in a position to turn the tables this time around.
He said: “I noticed last year, after winning the semi-final, everyone was celebrating - reaching the final was an achievement in itself. This time, everybody has been more mellow about it.”
That has to bode well for Rosemount, and while they were disappointed to lose in last year’s final, Miller says he still cherishes his runners-up medal to this day.
He added: “I have thrown a couple of runners-up medals away in the past, but the Junior Cup is different. I only hope that this year I can add a winners medal, too.
“There’s no doubt that Harryville are the best junior team in the country, but I’d say we have done well for a wee club to have got to the Junior Cup final two years in a row.”