Junior Shield final kicks off a huge fortnight for Tullycarnet and Kelvin
It’s fair to say Tullycarnet and Kelvin OB are going to be seeing a lot of each other over the next couple of weeks.
The Division 2A pair are preparing to meet FOUR times within a fortnight, kicking off with the County Antrim Junior Shield final at Seaview on Wednesday night (7.30pm), followed by the Cochrane Corry Cup final (Seaview, next Wednesday, May 6, 7.30pm), then Kelvin host Tullycarnet in the league on Saturday, May 9 in the league, with Tullycarnet hosting the reverse league game on the following Tuesday.
Only a week ago, both teams were in the frame for potential league title honours, but with a second defeat in five days to St Oliver Plunkett ending Kelvin’s hopes last Tuesday, they have been able to dedicate a week purely to focusing on this prestigious fixture.
Tullycarnet, however, remain in the hunt for the 2A crown and promotion to intermediate football, after beating Plunkett on Saturday to leave themselves with the knowledge that a win and a draw against Kelvin in the league should be enough enough to leave them top of the pile.
Yet Kelvin boss Michael Surgeon, who already tasted Junior Shield-winning success back in 2011, says that regardless of the outcome of their recent crunch league fixtures, this Wednesday’s clash was always the one at the top of his agenda.
He told The Park: “If you had asked me, four or five weeks ago if I would have taken winning the two cup finals and losing those last two league games, I would have. Absolutely. It was always a big ask for us to keep winning in the league, and we saw that against Oliver Plunkett - they are the best team we have played so far this season.
“This is our club’s 40th anniversary, we are having a dinner to celebrate that on June 6, and it would be nice to have a trophy or two to set on the table at it… especially the Junior Shield. There aren’t many clubs who have won it twice in four years, and that is what we are setting out to do.”
They say that the first time is the sweetest, but Surgeon insists that a victory on Wednesday would be every bit as enjoyable.
He added: “Last time I was managing the club with Steven Irvine, and it was a brilliant achievement, but it will be just as good this time with a different personnel, from the second team managers John McClements and Johnny Rainey, to my coach and assistant Davy Downes and Norman Martin… everyone deserves a lot of credit.”
A Junior Shield win would easily go down as the greatest moment in Tullycarnet’s short three years in the Amateur League, yet joint manager Jimmy Birch makes no secret of where the club’s true ambition lies.
“These last two league games against Kelvin are the big priority for us… they have to be. They are two games that could shape the entire future of the club, and where Tullycarnet are going.”
“As far as the Junior Shield goes, we want to win it, and I think our confidence will be high after beating Plunkett at the weekend, but, if I was given the choice, I would take a couple of league wins instead all day long.”
Of course, the men from Dundonald have an opportunity to complete a unique treble if they could manage four victories over their closely-matched opponents.
Such potential silverware hauls have seen parallels drawn between Tullycarnet and Premier Division debutants Immaculata, who famously won successive titles and cup honours on their way to the top division… a comparison made by none other than Immaculata gaffer Kevin Lawlor.
“It’s great to hear things like that,” said Birch, “because it’s clubs like Immaculata and Crumlin Star that we would like to follow.
“We are going great, our chairman is over the moon, our second team won Division 3D last week and our Under-19s are going well in the South Belfast. If we can finish the season well, it would keep things rolling along nicely.”