Downpatrick’s joint manager Joe McMahon has congratulated new Premier Division champions Immaculata on their title victory, but has warned them that they may well be disappointed in their pursuit of an end-of-season cup double.
On Wednesday evening, the Rosconnor Playing Fields club face the Mac in the Clarence Cup final at Breda Park (Upper Braniel Road, Castlereagh, 7pm). It will be the second time the two sides have played each other in two days.
The previous meeting of the pair turned out to be an historic occasion, with Immaculata overcoming their hosts 2-1 to clinch the Amateur League’s top flight title for the first ever time. And the close nature of that crucial clash has given Downpatrick the belief that they can emerge victorious from the forthcoming final.
McMahon said: “It’s hard to know what to take from the league game - they were probably nervous, with so much at stake, and we didn’t take our chances. But I have definitely seen enough to think we can beat them.
“Philly Traynor and Ricky Kerr both had a chance cleared off the line, and Ricky hit the post as well. It could have gone either way.
“We owed it to the league - and to ourselves - to give it everything, and it will be no different when we play on Wednesday.”
Some people might suggest having achieved such an important milestone, Immaculata may now have their eye off the ball, or be suffering from a post-title winning hangover, which Downpatrick may be able to exploit.
But those few people would obviously not be familiar with the Mac, or won’t have seen them in action. This is a team who kick themselves at a missed opportunity or debate a questionable refereeing decision just the same, whether they are drawing 0-0 or winning 6-0 - they are relentless until the final whistle.
And McMahon, who has nothing but admiration for his opponents’ feats of this campaign, knows as much.
He continued: “I imagine they will be greedy. There is no way those players will give up when it comes to Wednesday.
“Full praise has to go to Kevin (Lawlor, Immaculata manager) and the boys… it has been an incredible achievement. The league table never lies, and to be honest, I don’t think I can remember a team who has won the Premier Division with 23 wins and only one loss all season - although Ards Rangers must be gutted, as I don’t remember too many teams getting 21 wins, either.”
However, McMahon and his co-manager Kevin Trueman would much rather focus on the progress that Downpatrick have made and, should all go to plan, will continue to make.
A top-four finish in their first season back up in the Premier Division is a promising indicator of even better times ahead - but those in charge will not be satisfied unless they get their hands on a piece of silverware.
McMahon added: “We were aiming for the top of the table, and we have the squad to do it - but we just ran out of steam with all the fixtures we had left to play.
“The thought is to try and win a trophy every year… bringing home a trophy is what it’s all about. And we’ll leave no stone unturned as we try and do that in this week’s final.”