DUNBREEN Rovers manager Paddy McNulty accepts that few observers will give his team any chance when they lock horns with Strathroy Harps in the third round of the Irish Junior Cup at Youth Sport Omagh today.
Harps, back-to-back winners in 2012 and 2013, have improved in recent weeks and have climbed to fourth in Division One of the Fermanagh and Western League while Rovers are currently placed sixth in Division Three.
On paper it’s a non-contest and McNulty is more than happy to play the role of underdog.
“There is no pressure on us,” he said.
“I suppose Strathroy with the changes they have went through this season already there is a bit more pressure on them. Given their history in the competition they will be looking to go a step further.
“No one is really looking at us to contest this one and the tag of underdog will sit easy with me and the players.
“It’s a game to nothing and some people will be thinking that we’ll be fulfilling the fixture if you want to look at it that way.
“At the start of the season I said for us it was about hitting the reset button and bringing back the feel-good factor and that has been evident to date.
“If you look at some of the games we have played and some of the results we have dug out a win on Saturday would elevate that feeling to a new level.
“We are taking the tie seriously. Strathroy haven’t been at their rampant best this season compared to previous seasons, so we’ll try and jump on that and see what comes of it.
“It’s an opportunity to go out and have a go. Strathroy Harps are a scalp whether they are playing in the top half of Division One or the bottom half. Shocks are what the cup is all about. Look at Ballinamallard United reaching the final of the Irish Cup last season. There are plenty of examples of shocks in professional and amateur football over the years and Saturday is another opportunity for us to produce another one and progress.”
The eagerly-awaited clash will present no surprises for either manager, in particular McNulty, who will no doubt have factored into his game plan keeping tabs on Harps striker Niall McCaffrey, who left Rovers for pastures new in the summer.
The Rovers boss said that merely added to the intrigue and fascination of the third round tie.
“It’ll be interesting to see a few familiar faces again,” he continued.“Everyone at Dunbreen is well aware of Niall’s capabilities, so rather than trying to promote his talents which would have been the case in the past, we are now out to negate them.”
The Rovers versus Harps cup-tie is one of two all-Fermanagh and Western clashes with Dergview Reserves hosting fellow Division One opponents NFC Kesh at Spamount.
Like Harps, Kesh will start as firm favourites to advance at the expense of the Darragh Park second string who will have a number of players cup-tied.
The odds are stacked against Collie Robinson’s men but the Derg boss said his players would embrace the challenge.
“We are definitely underdogs, taking into consideration league position and all the rest,” he said. “ Kesh have had some great results and some not so great. They are favourites and we have quite a few players carrying injuries and a number cup-tied.
“That said there wasn’t much in it in the league fixture earlier in the season. Mind you Mark Jones wasn’t playing that day and he has a big influence on that Kesh team.
“But the boys are looking forward to it, the Irish Junior brings added excitement. We had hoped for a home tie, we got a home tie but truthfully no Fermanagh and Western team want to be drawn against another.
“It is what it is, we’ll probably have to dip into the thirds. If we can keep it tight I believe we have enough going forward to cause Kesh problems.
In all there are nine Fermanagh and Western League teams in Irish Junior Cup action at the weekend with holders Enniskillen Rangers away to Mid Ulster Division One outfit Caledon Rovers.
Irvinestown Wanderers are also on the road to Clough Rangers while twice winners Enniskillen Town United host Derryhirk United and Magheraveely entertain Willowbank, who were defeated 2-1 by Tummery Athletic in a semi-final at Stangmore Park last season. Ardstraw Reserves, shock winners over the Dromore men in the last round, will welcome Immaculata seconds to Vaughan’s Holm.