Annagh’s cup night to remember the reward for years of progress

Annagh United's Jordan Campbell (centre) - one of the scorers against Glentoran - during the post-match celebrations. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Annagh United's Jordan Campbell (centre) - one of the scorers against Glentoran - during the post-match celebrations. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

The fact that the national focus of Annagh United’s shock cup upset will centre primarily on Alan Kernaghan’s post-match exit as Glentoran manager should serve as little surprise within the Tandragee Road club.

Annagh have often spent time in the shadows of the Mid-Ulster football scene compared to the profiles enjoyed by Portadown, Glenavon, Dungannon Swifts and Loughgall.

However, an internal evolution developed within the progressive club across the past few seasons enjoyed its greatest moment on Tuesday with victory for Annagh against Glentoran.

The 3-2 success arrived thanks to a squad assembled by promoting from within the youth ranks, offering an outlet to others on the fringes of the area’s established sides and presenting players a chance to reinvigorate stuttering careers.

The alchemy of assembling a group within significant financial restrictions has been a process adjusted and adapted over a number of years thanks to support from a small but dedicated team of officials and coaching staff.

“It is a memorable result for everyone connected to the club,” said manager Paul Matchett. “The players can look back on that performance for years and never forget the feeling at the final whistle.

“To knock out a club of Glentoran’s history is a massive achievement and it will not only give the whole place a major boost but also help us financially.

“It shows how much of a roller-coaster football can be as we lost to Loughgall on Friday night by 5-0.

“The response from the lads was superb and we rode our luck at times but it remains a massive result for us.

“Now the plan is to use this one-off cup result as a platform to push forward in the league.”

Annagh played host to Glentoran as the NIFL Championship basement side following three successive league defeats - but goals by Jaime Gardiner, Jordan Campbell and Steven Park secured the landmark senior scalp.

“We managed to stay in the Championship last season during our first campaign at this level and accept it is going to be a tough season,” said Matchett. “However, we are looking long-term and the future is going to be about development, either from the club’s own system or by signing younger players.

“We had Craig Taylor playing left wing-back at just 16 years old plus another teenager as goalkeeper in Eoin Hughes.

“Mark Whitten, Jordan Campbell and Adam White are all still young.

“Jake Richardson and Pauddy Judge have come in from Portadown on short-term deals and settled really quickly as two exciting young players.

“Ross Wilson only joined the club last season from Loughgall but has done really well and we want to continue down that line of trying to work with and develop young talent.

“It is about trying to adopt a creative approach to signing players within such a competitive market and so much hard work has gone in behind the scenes over a number of years by so many people.

“The win over Glentoran marks a great result but also, hopefully, a starting point for us to improve.”

ANNAGH UNITED: Eoin Hughes, Jake Richardson, Jordan Campbell, Mark Stewart, Craig Taylor (Nathan Riddle, 90), Adam White, Mark Whitten, Steven Park, Jaime Gardiner, Johnny McClurg, Pauddy Judge. Subs not used: Chris McElroy, Andy Smith, Ross Wilson.

GLENTORAN: Elliott Morris, Aaron Smyth, Ross Redman, Calum Birney, Jay Magee, Aaron Harmon, Ciaran Caldwell, Eric Foley (Marcus Kane, 66), Nacho Novo, Curtis Allen, Chris Lavery. Subs not used: Kym Nelson, James Ferrin, Stephen Gordon, Patrick Cafolla.

Referee: Shane Andrews.