Sports

Eyes on the prize

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Eyes on the prize thumbnailArmagh coach Gary McIlroy says his side are looking forward to their New Year’s Day cup final.

ARMAGH 1st XI coach Gary McIlroy is hoping his side can get their 2017 off to a perfect start with victory in the Linden Cup final on New Year's Day.

The Ardmore outfit take on Ballymena in the final at Deramore Park in Belfast and McIlroy said his side are looking forward to it.

“The guys are up for the game and we did a bit of training before and after Christmas to keep ourselves ticking over.

“We had a good win before Christmas against Portrush and that gave us a good confidence boost ahead of the final.

“We are going into the game in good shape and for a change we aren't going into the final as underdogs.

“We are the senior side going into the game and Ballymena play their hockey in the junior leagues, but we know it will be a tight game.

“They have beaten senior sides in the cup this season and it should be an evenly matched final."

McIlroy is hopeful his charges can stamp their authority and take control against the Braidmen.

“On the day in any final it is down to who produces the goods on the day.

“One bounce of a ball can determine the outcome of the game

“I am hoping our senior players will be able to stamp their authority on the game early on and dominate.

“We are all looking forward to it and we have a bus leaving Ardmore with the team and supporters on it and it has certainly generated a fair bit of interest around the club and in Armagh."

The Ardmore based outfit have a good blend of youth and experience in their side and McIlroy admitted that there is a good crop of youngsters coming through at the club.

“We have a number of very good young players in the squad.

“William Shepherd is only 16 and he has really stepped up to the plate and shown a lot of maturity this season.

“Callum Reddick has also played a lot this season and he is only 15 and he has been on the scoresheet in recent weeks.

“We have a good mix within the squad and our only injury concern is Ben Mackey, who broke a bone in his hand and has been out for six weeks but we are hopeful he will be back involved on Sunday.

“This season we have also had a Daryl Jones, who is a Strength and Conditioning coach work with the squad and that has really helped the entire squad."

McIlroy said that while their league form hasn't been as positive as they would have hoped, their form in the cup has been impressive.

“It has been tough for us in the league and we have struggled to get a consistent starting eleven.

“The Linden Cup has gone well and we topped our group and had a great win in the semi-final.

“In the Irish Trophy we played really well against North Down, who are in the Premier League and we just got caught with a few goals on the counter and the scoreline didn't reflect how the game had gone."

McIlroy believes that victory could help his charges to push on in the league in the New Year.

“A win for us could really help us push on in the second half of the season.

“There is no relegation in our league so we can play with a bit of freedom and experiment, but we want to compete with the top teams in our league and make sure our home record is good and try and pick up a few more wins away from home.

“A win on Sunday at Deramore would be brilliant and it could really help us to kick on in 2017."

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