IFA Junior Cup Final
v Tummery Athletic
Saturday, 12 noon, Ferney Park, Ballinamallard
It’s a high noon showdown this Saturday at Ferney Park for the trophy everyone wanted and the final nobody expected.
Mercer League champions Enniskillen Rangers face Mulhern Cup winners Tummery Athletic in an all-Fermanagh & Western Irish Junior Cup final, but that doesn’t even begin to tell the story.
Back-to-back Junior Cup champions Rangers were knocked out in the semi-final on April Fools’ Day by Bessbrook United, two days before Tummery produced one of their performances of the season to beat Willowbank to reach their first ever Junior Cup final.
Their dream decider at Windsor Park was postponed twice in the two months since as a query over the eligibility of a Bessbrook player was twice dismissed by the Junior Committee of the Irish Football Association before the Carnbane League club were then thrown out of the competition and Rangers reinstated by the IFA.
The acrimony and recriminations have been fierce and will run for some time still, but the bottom line is that Tummery or Rangers will leave Ferney Park on Saturday with Northern Ireland junior soccer’s most prestigious prize.
“We heard over the weekend that the final was going ahead so that’s it. It’s good to get it over and done with now, it has dragged on long enough,” said Rangers player manager Michael Kerr, who only returned from holiday in Majorca late on Monday night.
Preparation has been the hallmark of the club’s success under Kerr in recent seasons, but it’s hard to imagine a worse approach to the game for the defending champions.
“Honest to God, we have not done a tap now since the last league game against Dergview Reserves, three weeks ago now,” admitted Kerr, who has made no secret of his frustration with how the saga has played out.
“Boys have been on holidays and nights out. But I suppose it’s the same for both teams, I don’t know what Tummery have been doing. It’s not ideal, but that’s the situation so we will deal with it now.
“To be honest I haven’t even spoken to the players really yet, I only got back late last night [Monday] so we will meet up tonight at training and see how we are fixed. I don’t even know if everyone is available yet, but it’s this Saturday so we have to plan for it now.”
Ferney Park will be familiar to all involved on Saturday, but it’s not the scenario Tummery envisaged when they celebrated their semi-final triumph two months ago. After the postponements, the National Stadium has since been closed for work on the pitch ahead of the new season.
“It’s not Windsor Park, but I think common sense has prevailed on this one,” said Kerr. “ It’s a great place to have the Junior final, the pitch is immaculate though I know they have been doing a bit of work there. It’s the best spot for it. There should be a decent crowd and there will be a better atmosphere at the smaller ground too.”
Both teams have lost just one league game all season, though the league trophy suggests Enniskillen Rangers just had the edge in terms of squad strength over the course of the campaign. Tummery’s cup exploits have been the more impressive, however, the Tyrone side storming to Mulhern glory and taking out a number of fancied sides in the Junior Cup.
Providing their strongest team is on the pitch, Gerry Love’s team will take some stopping. The three weeks of inactivity will do neither side any favours, but then all things being equal, it could come down to who wants it more. Tummery shouldn’t be found wanting in that regard.