Johnny hopes it’s third time lucky in NW Cup

Johnny Gaile in action in the 4-1 semi final win over Draperstown Celtic. PIC: Zack McConnell
Johnny Gaile in action in the 4-1 semi final win over Draperstown Celtic. PIC: Zack McConnell

Johnny Gaile will be hoping it’s a case of third time lucky when he takes to the field for Friday night’s Matt Morrison Junior Cup Final.

The Heights talisman has suffered heartache in his two previous North West Junior Cup final appearances.

But his out to set the record straight against Ardmore at Limavady Showgrounds on Friday (Kick-off 7.30pm).

“To win the NW Cup with the Heights would top any achievement I have done in all my years playing football, to do it with your home club were you grew up would be special,” Johnny told Times Sport.

“It’s a great achievement for the club , it’s been going through a restructure trying to attract more young players and we have probably over achieved in the first season since we have put it in place.

“When I started out at the Heights I was the youngest and now I’m the oldest but it’s great to see all the younger players at the club mixed in with a few older heads.

“It seems to work on the pitch, of course I get reminded all the time I’m the oldest but I just remind them that I’m in midfield and still the top goalscorer this season so far and that shuts them up!

“There is no reason why we can’t win it , at this level it is all to do with the hard work, preparation and belief.

“We have been training flat out twice a week since July and in Anthony and the whole backroom staff and committee they have been working so hard and it’s great to see their efforts being rewarded.

“Winning it would be a real boost for the club, it’s been too long since the Heights won silverware, hopefully after this Friday night that will have changed.

“There’s no reason why we can’t win it, we will have a big crowd up in Limavady to cheer us on and there will be some party if we bring that cup over the mountain on Friday night...third time lucky!”

Heights boss Anthony Olphert is hoping Gaile can achieve his goal after bringing the midfielder back to the club where he started.

“Johnny made me a promise he would come back and play for us this season and he has fulfilled that,” he told Times Sport.

“Now I’d love him to sign off for this season by finally winning the North West Junior Cup.

“It would be great for him to do that at his club, where it all started for him.”

The Heights are clearly reaping the rewards for a restructuring of the club’s teams last year.

“The committee took the decision to look at the structure of the club,” Anthony explained.

“For the last few years our Reserves side, who play in the Morning League, were traditionally our strongest team.

“We have changed that and made the Afternoon League team the strongest team, and we are now giving the young up and coming players the chance they deserve with the reserves.

“The club is benefiting from this as not only are we bringing through young players for the future but we are also competing for honours at the other end.

“The Heights is a sleeping giant and should be competing for cups.

“The late Jimmy McGonigle said to me when I came back to the club that he wanted the Heights to be challenging for honours and he will be the first one we dedicate the win to if we get through on Friday night.”

Olphert know though they face a stern test in the shape of Ardmore.

“They are a good side, you don’t get this far in this competition if you’re not a good side,” he said.

“They have a number of top players with good experience, so we will be going into the game as underdogs, but that suits us.

“Finals are all about who wants it the most on the day, and we are hungry for success.

“The lads have worked so hard this season, from day one, I couldn’t ask for any more from them.

“I’d urge the local football community to get behind us of Friday night.

“We have received great support from all the teams in the Coleraine League, especially Kilrea, who we played last week.

“They were knocked out by Ardmore in an earlier round and their manager and players took time to come and speak to us after the game last week.

“That was special, they are backing us to get a result, and as I say the other teams have wished us well.

“It would mean everything to me, the players and the local area to win it. I would be a very proud man!”