St Paul's aiming to fire on all cup fronts
There is a fine line between ambition and greed, and it could be argued that St Paul’s manager Micky Kelly is straddling it right now. But when he has a team with so much potential, and such a rich pedigree of winning silverware from his own playing days, who can blame him?
The west Belfast outfit remain well in the hunt for a unique quadruple of trophies, and Kelly wants all four. Heading that list of honours is the much coveted Coca-Cola Junior Cup.
It’s a prize the former Clonard Hibs boss would dearly love to win, as he and his club bid to emulate the feat of his former Immaculata team-mate, and current Mac manager, Kevin Lawlor.
The Grosvenor Road club famously won the Junior Cup three years in a row from 2008 to 2010, and while Kelly’s side have yet to lift it at all in their short seven-year history, they have displayed their credentials by dumping out the club who had that record in their sights in this campaign.
Strathroy Harps were targeting their third Junior Cup in successive seasons, but St Paul’s ended those hopes with a 1-0 victory over the holders in the last round of the competition.
And Kelly revealed that a little homework was the key to their unexpected success.
The St Paul’s boss said: “I hadn’t seen them play before, but their final from last year was up on YouTube , so I watched it a couple of times and it gave me the ideal preparation.
“Our strategy was built on stopping them playing, and putting pressure on them throughout the game. They did the same with us, so it was a tight game with very few chances, but fortunately when we got the penalty in the 87th minute, Christopher Rowntree put it away.
“Beating the holders really made it feel like winning the competition itself, and we all really enjoyed the day, but I had to bring them back to earth and remind them that we are the underdogs, and that we will have to do it all over again.”
This Saturday, St Paul’s take on yet another major force in the Junior Cup with a visit to Windmill Stars, and if they can pull off a victory, they will be just two steps away from getting their hands on the silverware.
They are also approaching the latter stages of the Junior Shield, Nelson Cup, and are still in the hunt for the Belfast & District Premier Division title.
Kelly continued: “The Junior Cup is the big one. But I want to win all four. We can win all four, as long as we are consistent.
“The main thing I got during my time at Immaculata was the sense of belief and confidence that comes from working hard. I think I have brought that to St Paul’s, and the boys know now that they can beat anyone that is put in front of them.”
The omens are certainly looking good for this to be St Paul’s greatest season yet, as they aim to add to the two Premier Division titles they have won in their history.
And while comparisons may be drawn with Immaculata, Kelly is understandably hesitant to get involved in any such discussion.
He added: “You can see some similarities, and hopefully some day soon we can follow Immaculata into the Amateur League and do what they have done. A lot of our scalps this season, like Ford, Lower Shankill, Newtownbreda and Ards Rangers II have come from the Amateur League, so I really don’t think we would look out of place.
“But at the end of the day, we aren’t Immaculata, we are St Paul’s – a club in our own right, and a unique one at that.”