AFTER a dozen years of trying, Harry McConkey eventually got his hands on the Umbro Cup last weekend.
The Umbro Cup competition is contested by amateur players from Northern Ireland, The Republic of Ireland, Scotland and an Isle of Man select which includes a number of English-based players.
McConkey’s team was made up of players almost exclusively from teams competing the Bluefin Sport Championship and included Dergview attacker Ryan Campbell and the Strabane pair of Warner Mullen (Lurgan Celtic) and Aaron Walsh (Maiden City).
All three played key roles with Campbell netting twice as the boys in green came from behind to draw their opener against hosts Scotland at Glasgow’s McKenna Park.
NI then defeated the Isle of Man in their second game 4-0 and clinched the prestigious silverware when Mullen and Campbell both scored in Saturday’s 2-1 win over their southern counterparts.
For McConkey and his players it had been a truly rewarding experience.
“It has taken me 12 years to get my hands on The Umbro Cup. Ironically, I have spoken to the players repeatedly over the build-up about the importance of ‘intangible gifts’ that is things that people do for you or you for them are positively deeply felt within but not obvious or seen by others,” said the former Dergview and Ballinamallard boss who was assisted by Strabane’s Gerald Boyle.
“Yes my players have won the Umbro Cup and it is tangible to all as it sits in the National Stadium Windsor Park and the local soccer world, but I know it is the intangibles that are far more important to all of the players, the staff and the committee who were on this trip.
“This was a group of very talented players who collectively played with great character, perseverance and commitment. We came back from the dead at 2-0 against Scotland in game 1. We battled hard to contain a very good Isle of Man side in the first 10 minutes of game 2 and then won comfortably 4-0.
“We went into game 3 as a team that was growing in self-belief and positive momentum in all three units of defence midfield and attack.
“We pressed high early on and forced the Republic of Ireland’s defence into errors and took control of the middle third of the park.
“Our goalkeeper and back four provided a great platform to play from in possession and were exceptional in their controlled aggression out of possession.
“We were blessed to have four strikers of real quality who had a hunger and desire to work the opposition both with and without the ball.”
FULL STORY IN THURSDAY’S ULSTER HERALD…