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Swifts out to scupper Harpsí season treble

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Swifts out to scupper Harpsí season treble thumbnailMichael Brown celebrates with his Beragh Swifts team mates after scoring the winning goal.

STRATHROY Harps are bidding to put the gloss on a marvellous 2016/17season on Friday night at Ferney Park by adding the Mulhern Cup to their Mercer League and Kennedy Cup titles, but local rivals Beragh Swifts stand in their way.
Harps collected their third Fermanagh and Western First Division League crown with two games to spare after a 2-2 draw over chasers Lisbellaw United, and Seamus Fanthorpe's side are intent on sealing the domestic clean sweep.
Strathroy are also aiming to become the first side since Enniskillen Rangers in the late 1950's to win three consecutive Mulhern Cup titles.
"Its certainly something that doesn't come around too often, that a team can keep that sort of consistency going from season to season, putting trophies on the table," said Fanthorpe. " We've got a special group of lads at the minute.
"I have six players that have played along with me when we won Irish Junior Cups, so they've come through, and we've strengthened in certain areas and tightened up a bit. Some new faces have come in, but there is a lot of experienced, big match players who have done it at the biggest stage.
"We are well aware its a final, and a final can go either way. There is no form book, it boils down to on the night. We are looking forward to a tough game."
Both sides drew at the start of the season at Fountain Lane, with Swifts coming from two down to salvage a 2-2 draw. Fanthorpe prefers to look back to that game rather than the reverse fixture last week, when a depleted Beragh team went down 4-0.
"We took our eye off the ball in the 2-2 draw. We thought it was game set and match, and Beragh chipped in with two late goals to draw the game. We've taken note of that and learned from that.
"We're taking no information on the last game. It was a well under-strength Beragh team out to fulfil the fixture. Certainly it will be no reflection of the Beragh team that will be out on Friday night."
Strathroy's path to the final has been far from easy, having been drawn against last year's finalists and title contenders Lisbellaw in the first round.
We've knocked out Lisbellaw, Killen and Enniskillen Town, so we've had to work on our way to get here. We've passed every test that has been put to us."
‘The hard way'
Beragh Swifts have also had a uneasy path to the final. After overcoming Dunbreen Rovers in the first round, Beragh faced difficult trips away to newly crowned Irish Junior Cup champions Enniskillen Rangers and Irvinestown Wanderers, before beating local rivals Strule United 1-0 in Ballinamallard a fortnight ago.
"Apart from the first game, we have had to play Division One opposition to get here, so if we win it, we'll have done it the hard way." says manager, Keith Hamilton. "You have to earn it, and you have to have that bit of luck.
"We're going in as underdog, with nothing to lose. We're glad it has come around quickly, as the last few games have been difficult as we've been playing an under-strength team in order to keep boys fresh. Out of the team that played Strathroy last week, only two or three of them will feature on Friday.
"The 2-2 draw at the start of the year was a fair result that day, but we could have also won it with a chance at the end of the game. We played to the full 90 minutes and got the equaliser. It was very tight and I can't imagine Friday night will be very different.
"Both teams in my opinion are stronger in attack, an it depends on who manages it better. I think it will come town to who's defence will come out on top."
Hamilton's main concern has been the fitness of winger Craig Breen, who came off injured in the semi-final against Strule United a fortnight ago. Aside from that, his side have a clean bill of health.
"This week has been about getting everyone through unscathed. We are waiting on Craig, but apart from that we have everyone fit and raring to go."
In the 2014 final, Swifts were beaten with the last kick of the game in extra-time by Enniskillen Town United, and Hamilton will be hoping to draw on the experience of those players still in the Beragh changing room challenging again this year.
"We know this year we fully deserve to be in the final. The players realise that Mulhern Cup finals don't come around too often, and they are difficult to win. You can come unstuck very easily as one bad game and you're out. Up until now, we haven't chatted about the final."
Hamilton and team coach, Gary Breen, came back into the Beragh fold at the start of the season after taking year out. After securing a fifth place finish in the league this season, a Mulhern Cup title would be "delight" the Swifts boss.
"We knew that our squad was there but we couldn't add to it, we were a bit light. I knew from the begging of the season we were maybe too light for the league. We needed a bit more strength in depth to cope with injuries and suspensions.
But as a cup team, on our day, we are as good as anybody."
Friday night's game kicks off at 7.30pm at Ferney Park, Ballinamallard.

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