Uncharted battle in Bessbrook Cup Final

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

CHRISTMAS just wasn't the same this year without the Bessbrook Cup Final as a welcome excuse to get out of the house and enjoy some football on Boxing Day. It was beyond anyone's control however when the wild weather damaged one of the floodlights at The Newry Showgrounds before the game, leaving the League with no option but to postpone the final until the damage was repaired and a suitable date could be found.
Eventually a date was decided and that date is Friday (March 14) at 7.30pm. The lights will shine on the Newry Showgrounds where last year's runners-up Orchard City will battle the three-time champions Bessbrook United for the coveted Cup.
This is an interesting match-up as it is uncharted territory for both sides given that they have yet to meet on the field of play. Having said that though a number of the players have donned both shirts at one time or another, so as individuals they will have some idea of what to expect.
Orchard ran out fairly comfortable winners against Division One side Millburn United in their semi-final while Bessbrook surprised most punters by knocking out holders Windmill Stars with a 1-0 victory to reach the final - they also knocked out the league Champions Killeavy earlier in the competition.
Orchard have been labelled as favourites going into the final as they moved up from Division One this season with an almost flawless record. They won four trophies including the league. They are still in four Cup competitions this season (It would have been five were they not ousted from the Junior Cup for fielding ineligible players in a match against Newcastle II that Orchard won comfortably), and they are the bookies favourites to win the Premier Division league. The only team to beat Clifford Sterrit's team so far in this season's league are the title holders Killeavy. Orchard have a number of games in hand over all of the other teams however and they have yet to play Bessbrook.
Orchard suffered a gut-wrenching loss to Windmill in the Bessbrook Cup Final last year when Joe McLoughlin scored the winning goal with only two minutes of normal time remaining. But even though this won't be the revenge match many hoped for, they are even hungrier to get their hands on the newly commissioned Cup this year.
While Bessbrook might be the underdogs because they have a young squad and have had a drought of silverware recently, manager Tommy Mooney has built up a strong team this year and they will be confident and prepared to do battle. Bessbrook had a wobbly start to their season in the league with five wins, two losses and three draws before Christmas - but those losses were against Windmill and Killeavy.
The New Year heralded a brilliant new start for Bessbrook however because they have haven't been beaten yet - winning five league games on the trot.
They have a proud history in this competition. They won the first ever Bessbrook Cup as Bessbrook Products in 1968 and in their present form have been in the final, and won, on three occasions - 2005, 2007 and 2011 - the most recent victory being against Cleary Celtic when the Bessbrook Cup returned to the Showgrounds on Boxing Day after a 20 year absence.
Neither manager gave too much away about their tactics when they spoke to the Democrat but Sterritt did say his team will play their own game and they don't intend studying Bessbrook before the final. Rooney is concerned that his sweeper Shaun Cinnamond will not be recovered from a groin injury, and his brother Danny is also now a serious concern as he injured his ankle a couple of weeks ago playing Villa Rovers in a league match. Apart from that there aren't any further injury concerns for either side.
Hopefully as spring approaches the weather will comply for the final this year and make for a great game of football where these two worthy finalists can showcase their prolific skills on the big stage. Both managers agree that there really are no favourites in a Cup final, so may the best team on the day win.

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