JUNIOR CUP: Hill Street one step away from trophy glory
Hill Street started the season as one of 206 teams hoping for Junior Cup glory - today (Monday) the Lurgan players will step out on the field at the National Stadium just one game away from bringing home the coveted prize.
Glory in the Irish Football Association showpiece at Windsor Park would provide the joint management team of David Wilson and Tim Dillon a landmark achievement, plus cap seven seasons of progress within a roll of honour that includes the Mid-Ulster League Division One title, Gerald Kennedy Cup and Alexandra Cup.
Hill Street can expect backing from a vocal support in the city showdown against Enniskillen Rangers as the highlight of a season which has already featured clubs from the area such as Hanover (Intermediate Cup), Dollingstown (Irish Cup) and Richhill AFC (Irish Cup) flying the flag for the region beyond the borders of the Mid-Ulster Football League.
The first steps towards the May Day showpiece, in truth, took place back in 2015 in the aftermath of a Junior Cup semi-final exit to Rosemount Rec.
“We have something like two players different in the side which won this season’s Junior Cup semi-final compared to the group which lost the 2015 tie,” said Wilson. “That hurt is still a driving force for the players and they can remember the pain felt having to listen to Rosemount celebrate reaching the final in the other changing room.
“Team spirit and togetherness play a big part in our progress as a group and certainly having experienced those setbacks together has made us strong overall.
“They have put everything into this season for Timmy and myself and now can grab the reward on Monday.
“It is a massive occasion, of course, for everyone associated to the club but also the Mid-Ulster Football League.
“We have won trophies in the past but this would be the one we really want, it would be a dream to bring the Junior Cup back again to Hill Street.
“To think over 200 hundred clubs kicked off the season looking to be in our position and now it will come down to who can produce on the final day.
“The league is the bread-and-butter competition for every club and to stand as the best at our Mid-Ulster level is always a brilliant achievement.
“But now we stand one result away from the title of the best team in Northern Ireland.
“This time next week we will look back on the final and know it came be a case of zero or hero.”
Wilson is backing his youthful panel to shine on the national stage rather than suffer under the weight of expectation.
“Glenavon have been great in allowing us to train this weekend at Mourneview Park so we can use that to help our preparations,” said Wilson. “That will give the guys an opportunity to adjust to a big ground and bigger pitch, plus grass as we normally play on a 3G surface.
“It is such an exciting period for the club, players, sponsors and fans.
“We have experience still here but there has been a shift in focus recently towards promoting youth and I think we can go into the final confident of representing Hill Street and the area with pride.
“The players fight for each other and show that real desire to achieve something as a group.
“Having a smaller squad has led to a real sense of commitment towards your team-mates.”
Kick-off will be 2.30.