WITH the pre-Christmas programme done and dusted all Lurgan Celtics preparations are now focused on the Bob Radcliffe Cup final against Loughall United at Lakeview Park on Boxing Day at 11am.
The last time the Hoops won this particular trophy was against Glenavon Reserves in 1997, coincidently also at the opposing side’s home ground Mourneview Park, where they had a comprehensive victory.
Celtic also reached the final in 2000 and lost 2-1 to Tandragee Rovers but that particular game was overshadowed by the knowledge that Sean Creaney was wearing the Green and White hoops for the last time. He came on as a substitute in the second half but couldn’t swing the game in Celtics favour.
Sadly Sean passed away less than a fortnight later and such was, and indeed still, is the esteem in which he is held none of the three teams fielded by the club wears a number nine jersey to this day.
Tony Creaney. who played in the same side as his brother. is still with the club as assistant manager to Ciaran O’Kane.
The addition of players like Aaron Haire, another player who has strong family connections to the club, and Daniel Ryan this season has bolstered the squad who are challenging strongly in the title race.
With Ciaran Fox in goal, midfielders Michael Downey and Ciaran McCann and Defenders Conor McAnallen and Jonathan McAreavey all back after long term injuries the squad is much stronger than it has been in the last two seasons.
The addition of more strikers to the squad has eased the burden on Raymond Fitzpatrick in the goalscoring stakes and the stats are showing a wider spread of goalscorers shared around the side this season.
Celtic’s route to the final has been pretty straightforward as they beat Intermediate team Hanover and Championship 1 sides Banbridge Town and Newry City to reach the final without conceding a goal.
But they know that Loughall will be a difficult hurdle to overcome and although respectful of their opponents’ achievements in recent years the Hoops will in no way feel inferior and indeed if they produce the sort of performance they did against Newry will be in with a good shout of success.
The club are hoping to run a coach to the match that morning and £5 up front will guarantee a seat for the the return journey.
Anyone wishing to avail of this can contact either John O’Neill on 07889 971 595, Paul O’Hara at the chippy in Francis Street or any committee member for details.
Hopefully the weather will be kinder than the last two years when the final had to be postponed due to the weather as the traditional Boxing Day date usually brings a large crowd out for this final and the interest shown has been representative of this.
The game is an great opportuinity for football followers from Lurgan, irrespective of whom they support, to get behind a local side in their quest for silverware.
Everyone is looking forward to a great match and a splendid occasion befitting the biggest competition in Mid-Ulster Football for teams outside the Premiership.
Finally Lurgan Celtic wish all their sponsors a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and hope the team brings back something to celebrate on Boxing Day.