Friday, March 24 may mark an early date for the final game of a team’s season but Portadown under 19s will line out tonight for the last time.
The decision to axe the Lisburn League before a full run of fixtures left the senior club’s third team without bread-and-butter commitments since late January.
Preparations for the Mid-Ulster Youth Cup final tonight (Friday) at Holm Park against Dungannon Swifts Youth have centred on the training ground for a number of weeks following semi-final success.
Now it comes down to one closing competitive game for Portadown under 19s that will mark a final appearance in club colours for some, stepping stone up a level for others or path into alternative challenges.
Andrew Topley took over as manager late last year following Chris Wright’s move into senior football with a coaching role at Warrenpoint Town.
Topley is now in his fifth season with Portadown’s thirds, having served as assistant to Wright in past campaigns that included last season’s Mid-Ulster Youth Cup triumph.
Aside from a string of silverware, he has played a role in helping various players progress up the Shamrock Park system in that time and admits a real sense of special pride in the dedication on display within the current group.
“It has been a difficult season for the players, especially with the end of the league and no competitive football for so many weeks leading up to the final,” said Topley. “But they have been so dedicated in training and a pleasure to work with over the whole season.
“We have been unbeaten in 11 league games, lost out in the Lisburn League Shield final and now reached another cup final.
“Seasons often end with a meaningless league game when little is at stake but there is a chance for the players to finish this season by winning a trophy.
“Thanks go to people around the club like Cheryl Coaton, Bill Emerson and Mark Beattie, plus the reserves’ Gary McCullough and Peter Mullan, plus of course Chris Wright.”
Kick-off will be 7.30.