Mossley sign up Olympic star in bid to end 34-year Kirk Cup famine
Olympian John Jackson is coming home for Christmas and has accepted a request from home-town club Mossley to line out for them in Boxing Day's Kirk Cup final against Kilkeel at Stormont (3pm).
Jackson has had spells abroad and cross-channel since he last pulled on the Newtownabbey club's amber shirt, and is currently lining out with Bath Buccaneers in England where he is now based.
But he remains eligible to play for Mossley in both the Ulster Premier League and the Kirk Cup, as neither competition qualifies them for Europe.
Jackson has already amassed 231 Irish international caps and was an inspiration as the Green Machine secured qualification for the 2016 Olympics and then did themselves justice out in Rio.
He can play anywhere along the defence or in midfield and Mossley coach Ricky Lee feels he can be the catalyst that earns his side the trophy for the first time in 34 years.
Jackson, in fact, will go straight into the side for Saturday's Ulster Premier League game against North Down to give him the chance to get to know the players around him, most of whom weren't in the team when he last played for Mossley.
"The club traditionally have a few players that return home for Christmas from university, and although John isn't at uni anymore, he was still coming home for the festive period and was keen to play a bit when back here," explains coach Lee.
"We received confirmation that the appropriate transfers had been completed and cleared just this week and are glad to have his experience for the next few games.
"John has grown up at Mossley and has sought to play for his boyhood club at every opportunity and even returned last season as the main speaker at the end-of-season dinner.
"He will give everyone about the club a big lift to see him don an amber shirt once again."
Kilkeel are not in the position of being able to call in outside help but coaches Brian Niblock and Colin McConnell are hoping their mix of youth and experience will help them get their hands on the prestigious trophy for the first time.
They take on Portadown at the Mourne venue on Saturday in the league, and if they come through that unscathed, then they will go into the Boxing Day showpiece with a proud unbeaten domestic record to date.
The only time that Mossley and Kilkeel have met this season was in the Kirk Cup pool stages, a game which saw them draw 4-4, an indication of how close the final could be.
There are a couple of other interesting league games on Saturday, including the clash between two of the title challengers, Instonians and South Antrim at Shaw's Bridge.
Current leaders Bangor, though, are likely to stay out in front going into the new year, as they start strong favourites to beat bottom team Raphoe who lost several of their players during the close season.
KILKEEL: Sam Morris, Andrew Niblock, Gary Niblock, Richard Fraser, Gareth Russell, Neil Stevenson, Mark Stevenson, Jonathan Aiken, David Finlay, Eddie Agnew, David Rae, Ryan Cunningham, William Annett, Luke Russell, Andrew Johnston, Mark Henning, John Finlay, Chris McKee
MOSSLEY: Owen Doole, Harry Dow, Stephen Clarke, Matthew Anderson, Ross McIvor, Tim Moreland, Joel Cathcart, Phil Kane, Matthew Sullivan, Ryan Lyall, Jordan Robinson, Aaron Boyd, Mark Moreland, Will Aston, David Glenny, Simon Todd, Adam Monahan, John Jackson, Matthew Steele, Gordon McAllister