Beragh Swifts are hoping to defy the odds and lift the Mulhern Cup on Friday night, despite all conquering Strathroy Harps standing in their way. The reigning cup holders and newly crowned league champions are favourites to retain the trophy and Beragh Swifts manager Keith Hamilton acknowledges that Harps are in in-form team, but he believes his team can emerge victorious.
“We have a good team and on our day we are as good as anyone,” he said. “We are looking forward to it. We have had disappointment before in the Mulhern. We were underdogs the last time against Enniskillen Town and we are probably underdogs again this time around, but we are looking forward to it.”
Swifts are looking to avoid a repeat of the heartache they suffered three years ago when they conceded an equaliser in the fourth minute of injury time, before losing in extra time to Enniskillen Town. That painful experience is something that the manager hopes will spur his team on. “We have a few young lads who haven’t been in a final before, but the majority of the lads have been there before and there is a good core that played in that match a few years ago,” he said. “It was a sore one and there are a few boys in the team still wondering how we lost that final, but that defeat doesn’t give us the right to win it this time and you have to earn that right. If we don’t manage to win it this time, as long as we make Strathroy work for it that is all we can ask. We played them early in the season and drew two all and were unlucky not to win the game. We had the chance to win it at the end. Whilst they are worthy of respect we have to make sure that we do ourselves justice on Friday.”
Harps are aiming to complete a league and cup double, but despite the high stakes, Strathroy manager Seamus Fanthorpe believes there is more pressure on his opponents to get something from the game. “We can go in and enjoy it because I think there is more pressure on Beragh to finish their season with some silverware,” he said. “We have already done that and yes we still want to win it but at the same time it has still been a half decent season regardless of this result. Having said that we want to win it, and hopefully we will win it.”
Harps defeated Beragh in the league last week, but it was a weakened Swifts team that day and Fanthorpe believes that game will provide no clues to the cup final encounter. “I am expecting a tough game but I’m not one for looking at the opposition to much because I know the personnel and the squad that we have, and I know the potential they can rise to,” he said. “This is our third year in a row in the final and we have become well used to the big games. We enjoy the challenge, we enjoy the hype and we know what way to attack the situation and prepare in the right way. I will be putting all those things into action on Friday night to put ourselves in the best possible position.”
Both teams are hoping to shake off some injury problems before the big game. Harps’ players Simon O’Neill, Gareth McCrory and Martin Flanagan were all carrying knocks after Saturday’s league game but are expected to be in contention for selection, while for Beragh Craig Breen is their sole doubt after he picked up a hamstring strain in the semi-final.