In this week’s column, our Secret Junior Footballer looks forward to the highlight of his season - the Cup final.
Cup final season is upon us and, having played in three and won two, it’s definitely the highlight of every campaign.
Cup matches provide a break from the league for most, especially in the case of the Munster Junior, the FAI Junior and the Lawson. The divisional cups though are a chance for glory that few clubs get and with a good draw, even the most mediocre of clubs can get to Jackman Park.
As I said, the importance of a good draw can’t be overlooked. With the recent LDMC policy of dumping clubs who fail to field a team in the higher divisions down to the 3rd or 4th divisions, the draws have become tougher.
Teams like Croom and Star Rovers have strode through the promotion pathway in recent years, fielding starting 11s that have no business playing lower league football and have secured league and cup doubles at will.
Great achievements for great clubs but hardly fair on the players who train and play every week only to get hammered twice a year and have their cup final aspirations blown away by clearly superior players with little or no interest in 3A football or the medals they win during their time slumming it.
Either way, the lower league footballer like myself can’t help but get excited about the cup final. We didn’t quite make it this year but in years gone by, the buzz was palpable in training in the days leading up to the blue riband event. The midweek staging of the game only added to the prestige and when you won, the session tended to last until the Sunday anyway.
The same feeling you got as a schoolboy before you played in the U-15B cup final begins to creep into your mind again and when you wake on the morning of the game, the butterflies are there. They’re there when you force down the porridge and when you opt for pasta instead of a hot chicken roll at lunch.
They’re there when you clock off early from work and when you pick up the younger lads on the team who can’t drive and head to the ground. They seem cool as a breeze but this could be your last chance at glory.
You hit Jackman Park, argue with the old fella at the gate about letting you park inside and hope you’ve been given the lucky away dressing room.
After that it’s the usual superstitions. Right sock, right boot, shorts. Then left sock, left boot, jersey. Shinguards go in after the warm-up and then it’s lucozade sport, water, kick a few doors on the way out to wind yourself up and out into the unknown.
Best of luck to all the cup finalists. Enjoy it.
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