Coleraine Seconds are all set for the Crawford Cup final at Ravenhill on Easter Tuesday - for the third year in a row.
As the current holders of the Cup, Coleraine will be keen to keep their hands on the trophy when they face Ballynahinch Thirds in Belfast. The pressure might be on the Bannsiders but they will be approaching the game with determination and are sure to produce a strong performance.
Captain Paul Shiels has been inspirational throughout the season. This will be his fifth Crawford Cup final game and he has been on the winning side twice before.
Speaking on Friday he said: “I believe we have a great chance to retain the Crawford Cup, which we won last year against Ballymoney. It will be a big day for us, with a lot of pressure, but luckily some of the players have the experience of last year to fall back on.
“We also have a few of our older players available and they have the experience to keep things under control, even at Ravenhill.
“If we play as well as we know we can, we have every chance of winning. We will be giving it our all and we will do our talking on the pitch.”
John Boyd is the player/coach and, along with manager Mark Giffin, has the difficult task of selecting the best side for the day. He is optimistic but by no means complacent.
Speaking last week John said: “The side has a lot of big changes from last year’s cup winning side. A lot of our players have been promoted to the Firsts and we had to start rebuilding.
“We have lost some matches but if the rest of the season goes according to plan we could be set for another second place finish in the league, the same as last year.
“We face Ballynahinch, who are top of the league, but we beat them by one point earlier in the season, the only game they have lost inthe league.
“We play an open game and we want to be strong up front. The aim is to get the backs moving freely and teams have found it hard to deal with our style of play when it is working well
“Against Enniskillen in the cup semi last week we really got together for the last half of the game and if we can produce that intensity and drive in the final we will win it.
“On the day we have to make the best use of the five subs and make changes at the right time. We will have a strong squad but it is going to be hard picking the starting 15. There will be five disappointed players at the start but we intend to use everybody in the match.
“All rugby players in Ulster want to get to a final in Ravenhill. It is a big stage, but win or lose we want all the players to enjoy the big day.
“We want it to be a memorable occasion for us, the club and the spectators. We are going there to win. There is no point going there expecting to lose and if we play to our potential we will win.
“The boys are buzzing and really looking forward to the final. I can’t wait but I will be having a few sleepless nights thinking through our plans.
“We know the club, family and friends will be there to support us. What we really need now is for our players to bring their ‘A’ game with them on the day.”
The entire club are behind the team and the stands will be full of Coleraine supporters cheering their side on.
Club president Mark Pyper will be there. He said: “On behalf of everyone in the club we wish the Seconds every success at Ravenhill and we will be cheering them on to retain the Crawford Cup.
“The side have had another very successful year and it is great to see them in the final of the Cup for the third year in a row. Last year they won against Ballymoney, now they face Ballynahinch and it is sure to be another fantastic match.
“The Seconds have a great mix of young talent and some of the club’s most experienced players. It is great to see them back in action and we are looking forward to cheering them on in the Cup - and next season as well.
“I am calling on as many friends and supporters as possible, from the town and the club, to come to Ravenhill and support the boys on Easter Tuesday, and to welcome them back to the club after the game.”
The final kicks off at 2.30pm Tuesday, 2 April, at Ravenhill. A bus for spectators will leave the club at 12.30pm and tickets are available from the bar steward.
Please come along and support the Seconds in their battle for Crawford Cup glory. It will be a day of great rugby.