Loughgall looking to write another chapter in club’s cup record books

Steven Hawe - the Loughgall joint manager.
Steven Hawe - the Loughgall joint manager.

Lakeview Park is steeped in Bob Radcliffe Cup history but the Loughgall players need only turn to the club’s joint management team for first-hand knowledge of the trophy’s rich status.

The Boxing Day showpiece marks the highlight of the Mid-Ulster Football Association calendar and a traditional festive favourite in front of a bumper holiday crowd.

Loughgall face derby rivals Armagh City tomorrow (Saturday) in a clash of the defending champions against the 2014 winners, with the holders pushing for lucky number 13 in the Villagers’ record-breaking Bob Radcliffe Cup roll of honour.

Lakeview Park, Loughgall’s home, may be considered neutral territory for the purposes of the cup final. But when the players take that familiar walk of a few yards from the changing rooms out on to the pitch, they can gain inspiration from the pictures of past champions adorned on the corridor walls.

Players in the current squad like Gareth Buchanan, Ricky Copeland, Steven Ferguson and Warner Mullen can think back 12 short but packed months to the 2015 final success against Annagh United under Brian Adair’s management.

And in Stephen Uprichard and Steven Hawe - two members of the management team on board at the club in the aftermath of Adair’s departure following last year’s final - the Loughgall players have access to a wealth of Bob Radcliffe Cup experience.

“We have both been to finals in the past as players and Scobie (Stephen) was my manager in 2007 when I won it with Coagh United against Banbridge Town,” said Hawe. “It would be amazing to get a medal in my first year in management.

“I actually gave my medal to Scobie at Coagh as he had never won it as a player, so it is funny how everything comes around and now we are managing a team together for a Bob Radcliffe Cup final.

“It is a great day if you win and always attracts a good crowd, so everyone around the club is raring to go now.

“The cup means so much to everyone at Loughgall and we have a few players from last year’s win over Annagh United.

“Scobie and I have a decent amount of experience in the cup between us but, really, it all comes down to the players and a win would be a great reward for the hard work put in by the lads.”

Hawe holds the progress enjoyed by this weekend’s rivals in high regard and considers Armagh City in an advanced position on the same path as Loughgall.

“Armagh have had to rebuild in recent seasons and it has been a real success,” said Hawe. “A lot of clubs, including Loughgall, are working along similar lines and there is not much between the teams.

“I think Armagh are very fit and we both play in similar ways, so it is going to be tight.”

Loughgall must enter the final without the suspended Marcus Dallas and absent of competitive football since December 5.

“We had a friendly last weekend against Gerard McMahon’s Dromara Village and it helped keep the boys ready but it has been a strange way to prepare,” said Hawe. “However, everyone is excited about the final and what a win would mean for the club.

“I am a big believer in the importance of any cup win and what it can do for a group of players.

“You gain so much confidence and it could act as the perfect lift for us ahead of the second half of the season.”

Kick-off at Lakeview Park will be 11 o’clock.