Tuesday, June 25, 2024


STRANGFORD and Killough will battle it out in the Newcastle League’s second showpiece final of the season on Easter Monday, the Harry Clarke Cup final. It’s set to be an intriguing encounter, with Russell Swail’s Strangford side aiming for their first Harry Clarke triumph since 2009 and Killough, managed by goalkeeper Conor Doyle, hoping to lift the trophy for an astonishing third time in five years. Killough booked their place in the final following a hard fought 2-0 win against Celtic Bhoys at Ballyhornan on 24 March, whilst Strangford earned their place at Meadowvale thanks to a convincing 6-2 victory over Division 2 side Valley Colts on Friday night (31 March). Strangford will be out for revenge, having lost in the semi-final of the same competition to Killough last season, and although Swail acknowledges the quality the men in green and yellow possess, he says his side have proved they can match them. “We played Killough three weeks ago in the league and they beat us 1-0. We did ourselves proud that day, we were the better side and were unlucky to lose it, so we know we can compete with them. “It’s a mammoth task. They are the best side in the league so we need to be on our game and everyone needs to play well.” Killough go into the game as strong favourites, given their record in the competition and the 19-point gap they hold over Strangford in the Premier Division. However, Strangford have the added incentive of avoiding the cup final heartbreak they experienced on St Patrick’s Day when they lost out on penalties to Ballynagross in the Bobby Dalzell final, a game Swail says his side didn’t do themselves justice in. “The biggest frustration was we didn’t play well in the Bobby Dalzell final. That will all be fresh in the mind so hopefully we can go out on Monday and play our game this time. “We left that one behind in the Bobby Dalzell, we should have won it if we had played anything like we’re capable of. I think there was nerves and we froze a bit. Hopefully we can avoid that this time and forget about the nerves and the occasion and just go out and play the game.” Killough goalkeeper and manager Conor Doyle was quick to play down any notion of an easy game against Swail’s men, believing Strangford will put in a stronger performance in their second final appearance of the season. “Strangford are a very strong side. The Bobby Dalzell defeat would have been disappointing for them, especially because they had to wait so long for it to happen. “They would have been looking forward to it and it’s quite a young squad. It’s a big occasion going to Drumaness on St Patrick’s Day. The pressure maybe just got to them on the day but I’m sure it’ll be completely different come Easter Monday.” Doyle is particularly wary of the threat posed by Strangford attacking forwards, James Mahoney, who’s bagged 12 goals in the Premier Division this season, and Conal Fitzsimmons, who grabbed a hat trick in the semi-final win over Valley Colts.

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