Junior Cup's last four chase a place in the final
Rosemount Rec have a huge task ahead if they want to go one step better than they did in last year’s Irish FA Junior Cup.
Last season's runners-up will still have vivid memories of their 3-1 defeat to Harryville Homers in the final last May, and there is a possibility for them to overcome their hurt at that loss by potentially meeting the holders in the final for a successive year.
However, in order to have any chance of making that a reality, they will first have to defeat St Luke’s in the semi-final at Seaview this evening (Monday, 7.45pm).
Despite Rosemount’s previous progress in the Junior Cup, their opponents will be considered favourites for this encounter, given that they enjoy a 15-point advantage over the Rec in Division 2A at the moment.
The two sides have already met in the league this season, with St Luke’s easing to a comfortable 4-1 away win, and they will be confident of further success, given some of their results in the competition so far.
They have shown themselves to be more than capable of rising to the occasion, and in two of their most impressive victories, they overcame a Hill Street side with plenty of pedigree in this competition, 2-0 in round four, and also defeated the tricky Ballyvea 2-1 in the quarter-final - both of which were named ‘tie of the round’ by the Irish FA.
Rosemount have been no slouches, either. A total of 12 goals without reply in the first two rounds, against Lurgan BBOB (5-0) and Saintfield United (7-0) showed they meant business. They have been able to dig out a performance when required, too, as they showed with a gutsy 8-9 penalty shootout win against Coalisland Athletic after a 3-3 draw in round five.
As for statements of intent, Harryville Homers - who take on Carniny Rangers at the Ballymena Showgrounds tonight (7.45pm) in the other mouth-watering Junior Cup semi-final - could hardly have been more clear, when they opened the tournament with a 17-0 thrashing of fellow Ballymena Saturday Morning League Division 1 side Connor.
The Homers have been made to work too, however, and tight 2-1 home wins over Finaghy and Cumann Spoirt an Phobail in the fifth round and quarter-finals respectively pushed them in their quest for this year’s Junior Cup and Junior Shield double to the very limit.
Carniny Rangers may have had an element of fortune in their journey to this point, with a bye in the second round, and a walkover with the withdrawal of Knockmena Swifts in the fourth. Yet the nature of their victories over 3rd Bangor OB (5-0), Shamrock (4-2), Armagh City Youth (4-1) and Killen Rangers (3-1) suggests they have yet to be fully tested.
They are likely to feel they have something of a score to settle with their Division 1 rivals, having lost 2-1 to Harryville in the O’Kane Cup final on Boxing Day.
Remarkably, the two sides have yet to meet in the league this season, but second-placed Carniny currently edge that race, with a three-point advantage over the third-placed Homers, with Ahoghill Thistle and current leaders All Saints OB still very much in the mix.
Expect tonight’s Junior Cup clash to be just as close. Expect a huge crowd. And expect a memorable encounter that will undoubtedly be talked about for years to come.