Sports

Villagers have sights set on history

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Villagers have sights set on history thumbnailPictured at the fifth round draw back in December are Richhill AFC manager Neil Rowntree, chairman Neil Megaw, captain Ryan Harper, vice-chairman Gareth Wilson and Richhill goalkeeper Neil McCartney.

RICHHILL AFC manager Neil Rowntree says that his side have their sights set on being in the draw for the sixth round of the Tennent's Irish Cup on Saturday evening.

The Villagers welcome Dollingstown to the Richhill Recreational Centre for a fifth round tie on Saturday afternoon for a 1.30pm start and Rowntree says his players can't wait for Saturday afternoon.

“We haven't stopped training over Christmas and the players have all been out doing their own fitness.

“Everyone is fighting for their place in the starting line-up and I have a strong squad of 18 players and any one of them could come in and do a job.

“The attitude of the players have been absolutely unreal and they have made a lot of sacrifices over the holidays and every single one of them would love to be in the hat for the draw for the sixth round.

“At the end of the day I am the person who takes all the plaudits and the interviews, but it is the players that deserve all the credit. They have been incredible over the last few weeks and they deserve all the success that they get."

Rowntree firmly believes that Dollingstown go into the tie as favourites. However, he says that is it just 90 minutes of football and that a place in the next round is firmly up for grabs.

“Make no doubt about it they go in as favourites, but we have a chance and it is the best possible draw we could have got.

“Dollingstown will be buoyed by the win in the Bob Radcliffe Cup on Boxing Day. They may have a couple of ins and outs once the January transfer window opens but they are going in as favourites.

“They may well be playing in the Mid-Ulster Intermediate A, but they are a Championship club in my eyes and they have players who are very capable of playing in the Irish League.

“Stephen Uprichard has come in and got them well organised and he will have them well prepared.

“We are going out on Saturday afternoon with our sights set on winning and sitting down after the game and seeing our name pulled out of the hat at the sixth round draw on television."

Rowntree admitted that he has done his homework on the Planters Park side, but admitted that they could prove futile come 1.30pm on Saturday afternoon.

“We have done our homework and I've spoken to a few people around the Mid-Ulster League and they have given us some help and advice.

“We are trying to do whatever we can to give ourselves an edge.

“However, the January transfer window has opened and I know that Dollingstown are likely to have some departures and some arrivals, so it will be interesting to see what their line-up is come lunchtime on Saturday."

Rowntree paid tribute to the man set to stand in the away dug-out on Saturday and said that come kick-off at 1.30pm any friendship will be put to one side.

“Stephen Uprichard is one of the few gentlemen left in local football.

“I have always had a great relationship with him and I played under him for a short while at Armagh City.

“I spoke to him at the Bob Radcliffe Cup final on Boxing Day and he wished me all the best in our preparations and I told him that come 1.30pm on Saturday that we will have our sights set on one thing and one thing only. Winning the game and getting into the last sixteen."

The Richhill AFC manager said that the Irish Cup run has been a 'massive bonus' to everyone involved at the club, but admitted that their priority is securing promotion.

“The Irish Cup run has been fantastic and it has been a massive bonus for everyone involved.

“Our priority at the start of the season was to get promotion to the Intermediate A and regardless of Saturday's result, the cup run has put us in good stead for the rest of the season."

Rowntree admitted that it should be an occasion to savour and he is encouraging local football fans to get out and support the Villagers on Saturday afternoon.

“A lot has been made about the fact that it is 7 entry for adults, but those are fees set by the Irish FA and ones we must abide by.

“We had two very good crowds at the two previous home games and it would be fantastic to see another big crowd at the game on Saturday.

“It might never happen again and we might never see Irish Cup football at this stage in the village, so we would encourage people to come out and support the team.

“We are the lowest ranked side left in the competition and only one Mid-Ulster side has ever got to the last sixteen of the competition before, so regardless of who wins or loses it will be a moment in local football history."

Rowntree concluded by lavishing praise on the hard-working Richhill AFC committee and everyone involved with the club.

“Neil Megaw our chairman has been absolutely fantastic and he goes out of his way to get things done for you.

“The entire committee have been fantastic and the amalgamation of the two teams has brought everyone together and everyone is working hard for the club.

“My backroom team have been fantastic as well and the Reserves and the Swifts have been doing extremely well this season.

“It is one club and one big effort and it isn't just about the first team.

“The entire club and indeed the village are all really looking forward to Saturday and we won't leave anything in the tank on Saturday and if we give our best and give everything then that is all I can ask."

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