ST MARY’S record books paint a picture across recent seasons of a club very much on the rise but victory next week would mark an achievement unrivalled in the Portadown team’s history.
The Saints meet Strathroy Harps on May Day in Castledawson with one result standing between the town side and a first Junior Cup triumph.
The Irish Football Association showpiece tournament has never featured a St Mary’s side on the final stage, with the club’s previous best in the competition a semi-final defeat during the late 1990s.
On Monday, the Saints will go marching into the big game as representatives not only of the respected club but also the town and Mid-Ulster Football Association.
“I know the Lurgan teams have a decent record in the Junior Cup but I cannot recall a Portadown side ever having reached the final before to be honest,” said Gerry Fay, part of the St Mary’s joint management team. “There is obviously a real buzz about the match as it is such an important game and the club’s first Junior Cup final.
“However, our attitude has always been to concentrate on producing our normal game and letting everything develop from that point.
“Quite a few of the players have Irish League experience and this squad overall can look back on some tough fixtures over the past few seasons in terms of finals and important league games.
“Over the last five years we have won the Alexandra Cup twice and finished runners-up once, been crowned Division One champions on two occasions and lifted the Mid-Ulster Shield.
“Players can only grow and develop off the back of that sort of progress and they tend to embrace bog occasions.
“We would never approach any game with an arrogant attitude but can take confidence from what has gone on in the past and use those experiences, good and bad, to prepare for future tests.
“The Junior Cup is another step up again on what we have previously achieved and victory would be a brilliant achievement.”
The St Mary’s team ethos extends beyond those in club kits on any given matchday.
“It is not just about the players and a lot of people have put a lot in to help the club reach this level,” said Fay. “People like Tom Mallon, Sean Hughes and Ultain Cunningham put so much into keeping the club operating off the pitch.
“I work alongside Paul McKeown in a joint management team but coaching support from Jimbo Robinson and Kevin Bates is also crucial.
“We have developed a management style in which one person complements the other and players seem to respond well to what we try to get across.
“We expect a tough match next week and managed to spot a few dangermen in the Strathroy Harps side during the semi-final.
“The final will be played on a synthetic pitch but our plan is to spend some time on similar surfaces between now and Monday, plus we had time booked at the place to help acclimatise.
“We play the Alexandra Cup final next Friday and can still win the league thanks to Saturday’s 5-0 defeat of Silverwood United, however, everything is centred on the Junior Cup match at the minute.”