For many junior footballers, playing in one Irish Junior Cup final would represent the pinnacle of their careers.
Alan Rainey, however, is hoping to experience the showpiece occasion in the Province’s junior football calendar for the FOURTH year in succession as Harryville Homers take on Rosemount Rec at the National Stadium at Windsor Park on Monday (2.30pm).
“I’m really proud to have played in so many Junior Cup finals but there’s playing in it and then there’s winning it.”Alan Rainey
Together with team-mates Ian Russell, Gary Bonnes, Mark McKay and Richard Forsythe - now the club’s assistant manager -Rainey has been a key part of the Homers starting XI who have contested each of the previous three finals.
That included Homers’ first unsuccessful attempt back in 2012, when they lost to Strathroy Harps in the final at Castledawson.
However, they were back in the starting line-up at the same venue the following year as Homers became the first Ballymena Saturday Morning League team to win the coveted trophy.
All five names were on the teamsheet again last May Day as Homers retained the trophy by beating Rosemount Rec at Coagh.
Jet-heeled winger Rainey has emerged as Homers’ man for the big occasion - he scored in last year’s final win over Rosemount; he was named man-of-the-match in this year’s semi-final win over Carniny Rangers; and just last week he was on the scoresheet again as Homers landed the County Antrim Junior Shield for the first time in the club’s history.
“It was a great feeling to win the Shield - it was the one trophy we didn’t have, so everybody was just that wee bit more eager to get it,” Rainey told Times Sport.
“Everybody worked really hard in the Shield final and when we work hard, not many teams at this level can cope with us.
“We have a lot of pace out wide and up top and we have built up a lot of experience over the past few years which counts for a lot as well.
“I really don’t mind who gets he goals but I’ve been fortunate enough to chip in with a few in finals and semi-finals.
“I’m really proud to have played in so many Junior Cup finals but there’s playing in it and then there’s winning it.
“The manager has kept us grounded all year but if we don’t win on Monday it’s going to be a big, big disappointment.
“It’s a great achievement from Rosemount in getting to the final again - all we can do is play what is in front of us.
“The first year we went into it not really knowing what to expect and we were caught cold against Strathroy but we learned from our mistakes and came back and won it.”
With the previous finals having been played at venues such as Castledawson and Coagh, Rainey has warmly welcomed the decision to play this year’s decider at the revamped national stadium.
“It has turned into a brilliant stadium now with all the work that has been done to it and it will be a big thrill to play there.
“Steve Davis is a good friend of mine and I go and watch him every time Northern Ireland play at home - maybe I can steal his peg in the dressing room!” laughs Alan.