Can Thistle halt Homers monopoly on Boxing Day Showpiece
This Boxing Day (26th December) sees the final of the newly branded Zala Sports Cup formerly the O’Kane Cup take place at Broughshane and what a final there is in store as it pits the Champions and runners-up in the BSML from the last two seasons against each other once again.
Thistle have been in sensational form all season winning the Top Four against Homers earlier in the season and also mounting a serious challenge in both Junior Shield and Cup and remaining unbeaten in the league. Their run to the final began in Round 2 with a comfortable 4-1 victory over village rivals Rovers. Another derby awaited them in Round 3 as they faced the much improved Galgorm Blues, but they were swept aside 2-0. Another lower league side were defeated in the Quarter Final as Thistle overcome the youthful Carniny Amateur & Youth to set up a semi final with Clough Rangers. Clough proved no match for Thistle on the day as they eased into the final with a 6-2 win.
Manager Stewart McDonald has set the ambitions high for the season for his Thistle side and with these ambitions he has assembled a squad with great ability. Sean Ward on his day is one of the best keepers in the league and he will have to be at his best to keep Homers out. The Thistle back four is full of higher league experience with Chris Getty and David Calderwood a formidable centre half pairing. Full back David Drummond is a major scoring threat and he will be hoping to get another cup final goal after his winner in the first final of the season. There is no let up in quality in the middle of the park with it being anchored by Captain David Campbell, and he is ably assisted by Randal Reid, Matt Boyd or Daniel Brown who all can prove match winners on their day. Ryan Sands returned from a spell at Wakehurst in early September and he has kicked on from last season making one of the wide berths his own and the goals have come once again as he leads the way for Thistle in front of goal. On the other side Paul Aiken provides Thistle with a bit of trickery and he will have the Homers defence on high alert. Like all over the pitch there is no shortage of quality in the striking department with the experienced David Tennant fighting it out with Paul McIntyre, Connor Gregg and Jamie Willighan for the central striking spot and they all know where the net is with them all finding the net on a regular basis.
Homers are going in search of their seventh win in this Cup in a row with their unbeaten run in this competition stretching way back to 2009. Their run to the final began with a hard fought 3-2 victory over Southside Rangers, before they easily dispatched Division One opponents in Raceview with a 7-0 win. Ruby’s Rovers proved the toughest test of them all for Homers en route to the final as it took them to extra time to sneak through with the odd goal in five. After a BSML decision Homers faced Newpark Olympic in the semi final, but they were easily beaten as Homers racked up 14 goals to make it into the showpiece final.
Homers despite suffering a few defeats earlier in the season in the Junior competitions and in their Top Four meeting with Thistle have turned the corner once again under Robert Duddy and are looking in scintillating form once again.
Alex McCosh has nailed down the number one shirt at Homers once again and despite not featuring in the semi final he will be hoping to add to his vast array of honours. Homers full backs Ryan Stewart and Ricky Nicholl are two of their main players both defensively and in an attacking sense with much of their good play coming through these two avenues. Ian Russell and Richard Reid have struck up a solid centre half partnership of late and provided both avoid recurring injuries should give Homers a solid set up in final. Gary Baird is the mainstay of the Homers team these days and he provides the defensive cover in midfield for the Homers attacking players to go and cause problems. Darren Campbell will be hoping his injury problems are behind him to partner Baird in the middle, but is he does not get the nod former Thistle Captain Jason Stewart could face his former side. On the wings Homers are blessed with lots of pace. David McWhirter and Jason Logan have been amongst the goals of late and they are both at the top of their game keeping out the BSML player of the year Alan Rainey who has had injury problems this season but will be hoping he can get back in the team and fire his side to glory. Like Thistle Homers have an array of striking options with Paul McNeill likely to be partnered by either Captain Gary Bonnes or Colin Craig and whoever plays will be hoping they can get amongst the goals and make Boxing Day a special one for Homers.
A great final is in store at Broughshane with a 10.30am kick off. Entry as normal is £3 for what we all hope to be a bumper crowd witnessing a classic.