Homers eye third successive Junior Cup final place

Harryville Homers pictured here in weekend action against Moylena, play in the Junior Cup semi-final on Wednesday night. INBT 14-935H
Harryville Homers pictured here in weekend action against Moylena, play in the Junior Cup semi-final on Wednesday night. INBT 14-935H

Harryville Homers manager Robert Duddy hopes his side can continue their love affair with the IFA Irish Junior Cup this week.

The Ballymena Saturday Morning League champions are potentially 90 minutes away from a third successive appearance in the final of the most prestigious junior football tournament in the country.

Standing in their way are Amateur League outfit Lower Shankill, who will hope to end Homers’ reign as defending champions when the sides meet in Wednesday evening’s semi-final at Taylor’s Avenue, Carrickfergus (7.45pm).

“We’re reasonably confident going into the game, even though we have a number of players missing,” Duddy told Times Sport.

Even Homers’ exceptional squad has been tested to the full with several key players missing through long-term injuries, the latest of them free-scoring midfielder Darren Campbell who will require an operation after rupturing a capsule in his shoulder recently.

He joins defender David Gibson (cruciate ligament) and David McWhirter (broken leg) on the long-term absentees’ list, while full-back Ryan Stewart is currently working for three months in Malaysia.

“It’s strange that since we lost two of our best defenders in David and Ryan, our defensive record has actually improved because we’ve only conceded one goal in 2015,” said Duddy, who has led Homers to each of those two final appearances in the past two seasons.

“The two semi-finals were completely contrasting occasion because the first year we got through after a really tight game, whereas last year’s semi-final we won convincingly but hopefully those two experiences will stand us in good stead.”

Opponents Lower Shankill play in Division 2C of the Amateur League - the same division as Ballymena side Carniny Amateurs - as Duddy admits to hearing “mixed reports” about the Belfast outfit.

“They beat Dromara Village, who are in the Premier Division of the Amateur League in the Clarence Cup the other week and they have reached the last four of the Junior Cup so they must be a reasonable side.

“One of our aims at the start of the season was to have a really good go at holding on to the Junior Cup - winning it was great but to win it two years in a row would take it to a different level.

“We’re expecting a big support for the semi-final - hopefully they can paint Carrick red and black,” added Duddy.