​Can Cleary make it three with Junior Cup in sight?

Windmill celebrate winning the Irish Junior Cup.Windmill celebrate winning the Irish Junior Cup.
Windmill celebrate winning the Irish Junior Cup.
​Can Cleary Celtic be the third team from the local area in the past 80 years to win the Irish Junior Cup?

On Friday evening (May 24) against favourites Enniskillen Rangers at Dungannon’s Stangmore Park the Celts will attempt to join Newry United and Windmill Stars in claiming the toughest, most hard-to-win junior trophy in the nation.

But apart from United and the Stars, traditionally the Junior Cup final has been a graveyard of ambitions for local teams.

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Shamrocks, Rockview United and Bessbrook (on two occasions), have each come up short in finals. Yet all these Junior finals were tightly run games with just one goal separating the sides.

Neil Barr and Jack O'Doherty celebrate Barr's decisive second half goal against Lincoln Courts at Stangmore Park, Dungannon.Neil Barr and Jack O'Doherty celebrate Barr's decisive second half goal against Lincoln Courts at Stangmore Park, Dungannon.
Neil Barr and Jack O'Doherty celebrate Barr's decisive second half goal against Lincoln Courts at Stangmore Park, Dungannon.

Newry Wanderers were the first team from the locality to take the trophy back to the border town … way back in in 1892. But the cup did come to neighbouring Bessbrook twice in the first part of the twentieth century; in 1931 Bessbrook FC took the trophy with a 4-2 victory over the Belfast based Byron. Once again, in 1945, the cup was won by a Model Village side, The Strollers carrying it home with a 4-1 margin over Belfast Co-op.

However, Newry United were the only town team to win the trophy in the last century.

Managed by Eddie Campbell, United were a youthful, formidable eleven that on a sunny May Day in 1962 beat St Ninians 4-2 at Solitude to capture the elusive trophy. It was on that day too that 16-year-old Pat Jennings won his first major soccer medal.

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St Ninian’s scored first but Chris Loughran levelled before the break. However, in the second half big Bessbrook man Alf Walsh went to town and plundered a super hat-trick. The Saints pulled one back but the day belonged to Newry.

United: Pat Jennings, Terry Davy, Artie Green, Ronnie McKee, Jim Doherty (captain), Peter Quinn, Chris Loughran, John Rooney, Alf Walsh, Joe Connor, Brian Jennings.

It was a long wait before another Newry team would win the Junior Cup … over 40 years in fact, and Windmill were that team.

On May 22, 2003 the Stars twice fought back from arrears, to defeat Ardoyne Working Men 3-2 at Lakeview Park, Loughgall. And in fact they became the first (and so far the only) Carnbane League team to win the much-coveted trophy.

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The Belfast team netted early on but before the break Phil McCorry levelled for Barry Doran’s men. After the interval Ardoyne once again edged in front but on 67 minutes substitute Nigel Rees squared things once more. However, with the clock reading two minutes over the ninety, Damian Rafferty the slimly built, but so courageous midfielder, fired a low drive into the corner of the Ardoyne net. It was the conclusive score, the Stars were Junior Cup champions … and they celebrated fittingly.

Led by skipper and sweeper Darren Mullen every Windmill player gave everything but perhaps Damian Rafferty, Damian O’Hare, Shane McSherry, Mickey Fearon, and Gavin Quinn gave that little bit extra.

Windmill Stars: Shane McSherry, Barry Quinn, Damian O’Hare, Darren Mullen, Gavin Quinn, Mickey Fearon, Damian Rafferty, Cathal O’Rourke, Robbie McLoughlin, Collie Burns and Phil McCorry with subs: Nigel Rees, Shane Smith and John O’Hanlon.

Unlucky losers

Four other teams from the Newry area have made the Junior Cup Final but none of that quartet could take the trophy home.

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Shamrocks, the top Carnbane league team in the seventies and eighties, were particularly unlucky on May 2 1983 at Glenavon’s Mourneview Park. They totally outplayed Crewe United but lost out to a lone goal, scored after four minutes. Crewe demanded that Shamrocks didn’t play Joey Larkin and Marty McKeown but they themselves played a Glenavon first teamer … but manager John Lynch refused to protest.

Shamrocks: Marty McCabe, Peter Cunningham, John Cinnamond, Tommy Gray, Paddy Crossan, Jim Cregan, Paul Lundy, Brian Hughes, Eamon Toner, Peter O’Hare, Marty Magee Subs: Paul Toner, Eugene Treanor.

Three years later it was the turn of Rockview United to contest the Junior Cup final. But they too lost out. After extra time United went down 3-2 to Bangor Amateurs on May 5, 1986 at Distillery’s New Grosvenor Park. But going into the most important game in the long history of the club, fate dealt them two severe blows. Their skipper and driving force, Davy McCutcheon plus their keeper Mickey Doran were injured and couldn’t play.

Still Rockview began like the proverbial house on fire and should have been four up in the opening 20 minutes; yet it was the Bangor side that led. Tommy Gray brought the match into extra time but the Amateurs scored twice - and although Kelly O’Rourke pulled one back, it just wasn’t enough.

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Rockview Manager Gerry Fallon stated: “In all my time playing and managing football teams I was never present in such a depressing dressing room. It took the players 40 minutes to remove their gear with grown men crying and walking around in a trance.”

Rockview: Marty Gilbraith, Collie Cunningham, Sean McKevitt, Tommy Gray, Dominic O’Hanlon, Adrian Dillon, Jimmy Bennett, Francie Monaghan, Ronnie Taylor, Francie Maguire, Jim Carnegie, Kelly O’Rourke, Gerard O’Rourke.

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