Cup showdown for deadly rivals

Cup showdown for deadly rivals

11 April 2018

KILLOUGH have a battle on their hands when they take on Ballynagross in the SportLoMo Harry Clarke Cup semi-final at Bignian Park, Kilkeel, on Friday night.

The red-hot favourties to join Ballyvea in the showpiece decider suffered a crushing blow to their Premier Division title bid on Saturday when they were beaten 2-1 at Bear Park by a resolute Tollymore United.

The ‘Gross may not have played a game since March 24 when they beat Strangford 4-1, but manager Karl Gelston, a former Killough stalwart, will have his players raring to go.

Killough played arch rivals Celtic Bhoys in a league fixture last night and they will only have 72 hours to prepare for Ballynagross Black, a former club player who manages the side along with Gerard Kelly and Damian Sharvin, is worried about his players picking up injuries against Celtic as his squad is already down to the bare bones.

With Killough, what you see is what you get. There are no fancy permutations or intricate formations with them.

The ageless Chris Mallon will be in goal, despite all the aches and pains he suffers from on a daily basis. He keeps an experienced back four on their toes with constant encouragement and is a vital cog in a well-oiled machine.

Mallon should be fronted by Matty Burns, who seems likely to replace Stephen Black, Colm Stranney, Jakie Clarke and Conor Black, who has had spells at Lisburn Distillery, Drumaness Mills and Ardglass.

However, in Stranney and Clarke they have original members of the boys from the old brigade. They have been around so long I dare say even they have forgotten what age they are, but you will not find two more dedicated, disciplined or composed players.

I expect Matt McKiernan, Gareth George, Seamas Tumelty, Matt O’Shea, potential match winner Freddie O’Connor, Ruari Sharvin, Jamie O’Connor and young Declan Burns to fight it out for places in the middle of the park with Ross Armstrong asked to play a lone role up front.       

Over at Ballynagross, manager Gelston is not unduly worried about not having played a game in three weeks.

In goalkeeper Cathail Arnold, Ballynagross have one of the best custodians in the Newcastle League. He was at Linfield as a teenager and commands his box with authority as well as displaying a safe pair of hands every time he goes near the ball.

Ballynagross also have a few experienced defenders who have been round the block a few times and then some, but in former Ardglass defender Aaron Beattie they have a master craftsman who is as reliable as they come. 

He should have Conor Marron, Paul O’Reilly, Darryl McGrady for company with Mark Magill, Matt Rooney, Robbie Hagan and the McCavera brothers, Donal and Eoin, vying for the midfield places and they can compete with the best.

However, it is up front that Ballynagross can cause untold damage to any defence.

Daniel Taggart, who is struggling with an Achilles injury, Declan Dowie, and Kieran Taggart can cause untold mayhem if they are given a good supply of the ball.

Killough should have too much all-round ability for Ballynagross, but write off Karl Gelston’s side at your peril.