Tullycarnet's Kinnier expecting a tough Junior Shield test against Harryville
Considering their respective rich recent forms at the pinnacle of Northern Ireland’s junior football scene, it may seem somewhat surprising that Tullycarnet and Harryville Homers have never met in a competitive fixture… until now.
For any ‘neutral’ with even a passing interest in the grassroots game, there is no question about where they should be heading this Saturday (1.30pm). Wakehurst Playing Fields in Ballymena plays host to a unique County Antrim Junior Shield third round tie that throws the Shield’s current holders, Tullycarnet against the hosts and current IFA Junior Cup champions, Harryville.
The stats surrounding this game alone are enough to sell the fixture. Both clubs are blazing a trail in Ballymena Saturday Morning League Division 1 and Northern Amateur League Division 2A respectively, with Harryville scoring 58 goals in 10 league games and Tullycarnet netting 34 in seven.
And while Harryville have the home advantage, and a marginal goals-to-games ratio, the visitors do have the added knowledge that they go into this game having scored a total of 20 goals across the previous two rounds.
“We won’t go to Ballymena with any fear,” confirmed Stan Kinnier, one of three joint Tullycarnet managers, along with Paul Campbell and Jimmy Birch.
“I was actually in New York at the time when the draw was made, and when I saw it on my phone, I couldn’t believe it.
“We played them in a friendly two years ago (Harryville won 3-1) and it was a smashing game - and I would expect nothing less this time. It’s a game both teams will be looking forward to because one of us is going to come away with a big scalp.”
The temptation would be to suggest that the winners of this massive cup tie will be the outstanding favourites to lift the Junior Shield.
However neither Kinnier nor his managerial partners like to look that far ahead.
Kinnier explained: “We will not look at it like that. Whoever is in front of us, we will treat them with the same respect.
“We won comfortably in the last couple of rounds, but we will approach this game in the same manner that we did with them.”
Similarly, with 2A, the Moat Park men already have a six-point cushion over the rest of the chasing pack, having won six and drawn once to date, but complacency will not be an obstacle facing Harryville this season, as they chase the title, and promotion to intermediate-level football.
Kinnier stated: “We have started well, but it certainly won’t be plain sailing. Maybe a lot of people thought last season was going to be plain sailing, but we ended up missing out.
“We had a free week last week and watched Rosemount Rec against St Luke’s, and St Luke’s look like they are up for a push. Harryville beat Woodvale 3-2 in the last round of the Junior Shield, and I reckon they will be in the mix too.
“And while we’d love to hold onto the Junior Shield, the league is the one we really want to win. You can never really say if you are ready for intermediate football, but you have to keep pushing in that direction. It’s where you want to be now.”
With Tullycarnet not involved in the Junior Cup, by their own choosing as they maintain full focus on a successful title bid, there is the very real possibility that - if they achieve their ultimate goal of promotion - this could be the first and last time these two teams do battle. Don’t miss it.