Kirk wary of Steel Cup threat posed by Carrick's reserves
Jamesie Kirk and his PSNI side may be enjoying the view from the top of NIFL Championship Two, but that doesn’t mean that they have any sense of misplaced confidence about what lies ahead.
After all, the police outfit suffered a humbling experience in their debut season in Championship One, finishing second bottom to seal a swift return to local football’s third tier, so they aren’t about to be taking anything for granted.
Therefore, when the draw for the Toals Steel & Sons Cup third round threw up a trip to Carrick Rangers Reserves, nobody at Newforge was exactly doing cartwheels.
Kirk has been in the game too long to underestimate any opposition, and the fact that they are a reserve XI is an irrelevance to the former Ballyclare Comrades and Nortel gaffer.
“We were more used to used to playing their first team last year, and had a couple of good games against them,” he recalled.
“People will say they won’t be as strong as their firsts, but I’m expecting a tough enough game.
“I had them watched against Ballymena Reserves last week, so that is how seriously I am taking them. We have aspirations to do well in every competition.”
That sentiment was as apparent in the PSNI’s 1-0 defeat against Glentoran in the JBE League Cup last week as it was in their 5-0 drubbing of Donard Hospital in the Steel Cup second round the preceding weekend.
In the end, Curtis Allen’s sixth minute strike was enough to separate the sides, but Kirk’s men came away with a lot of credit from a performance that will surely have done no harm to the positive momentum surrounding the club in the early stages of this season.
The PSNI boss said: “It was a good game. We had a game plan, to flood the midfield to stop them, and even though they scored the early goal, we didn’t change our shape.
“We didn’t manage to get that shock equaliser, but it was a good experience for our side.”
Kirk is similarly philosophical when it comes to reflecting on last season in Championship One.
He continued: “It tested us and we had to stick together some torrid times. In October last year, we shipped seven and eight goals in successive games, but we had a good second half to the season. It builds character - every day is a learning day, and we learnt a lot from last season.
“I am just happy to have got through the transfer window. A few clubs were sniffing round some of our players early on when we got relegated, but thankfully, about 90 per cent of them stayed on, which was a big plus. We brought in about 10 new faces too, and I’d say it has left our squad stronger than last season.
“We had a taste of being a senior side last season, and it has left us wanting more.”
If the PSNI do achieve their promotion goal, and also manage to get their hands on the Steel Cup this year, they be unable to defend it, as from next season, the competition will no longer be available for teams from Championship One.
Something, you would suspect, that Kirk and his side may be able to live with.
Belfast Telegraph Digital