Border Cup semi-final: Killyleagh out to turn back the clock, says McConnell

Border Cup semi-final: Killyleagh out to turn back the clock, says McConnell

Darren McConnell hopes the real Killyleagh show up at Seaview as they go in search of a first Border Cup final appearance in almost 20 years.

The Showgrounds outfit, who face Derriaghy in the second semi-final on Wednesday night at Seaview (8pm kick-off), last tasted success in the Christmas showpiece in 2003, successfully defending the trophy they’d won one year earlier.

Back then, they were the biggest team in the Amateur League by some distance, with Dee Heron famously leading them to six straight top flight titles, a Steel & Sons Cup, and the last four of the Irish Cup in a heady spell around the turn of the millennium.

But those days are long gone, with Killyleagh’s trophy drought now approaching two decades.

None of which can be laid at the door of the current generation. In fact, guided by Paul Sharvin, the current crop of players are responsible for putting Killyleagh back on the map after years of slow and steady decline.

Yet for all that, including the promotion they claimed back into the top flight two years ago, silverware has eluded them and 37-year-old McConnell, something he desperately wants to put right.

“It’s a big game, the club could do with a big day out just because they haven’t had one in such a long time,” said McConnell.

He has spent the best part of two decades at Killyleagh himself, save for a short stint up the road at Ballynahinch United, and admits it would be extra special to finally get some silverware to show for his service, having missed out countless times previously at this very stage.

“I’ve lost a load of semi-finals in the Border, I’ve never been to the final, so it would be nice to finally get there with Killyleagh,” he said.

“We fancied ourselves for 1A but never won it, we got promoted but didn’t get silverware, so it’d be nice to finally get some recognition for everything we have done over the last four years or so.”

If they are to overcome Derriaghy, McConnell believes Killyleagh need to get their mentality right, pointing to their inconsistent form this season as a concern.

“It was good to get a win at the weekend but like every other Amateur League team, we are up and down at the minute,” said McConnell, who converted a penalty in Killyleagh’s 6-2 demolition of 1st Bangor at the weekend.

“We can’t be sure what Killyleagh is going to turn up. We played Derriaghy earlier in the season and beat them 4-2 but again, you’re aren’t sure what you are getting from game to game and it could have gone either way that day.

“So it’s all on the night really, no two games are ever the same.”

And for McConnell, key to getting the win and setting up a showdown with Rathfriland is the form of Jack Sharvin, now Killyleagh’s talisman up front.

“If we can keep a clean sheet, I fancy us to score,” added the Killyleagh midfielder.

“And we’ll need wee Jack to be on his game, he certainly was on Saturday, and if he is, I fancy us.

“He’s now got that added responsibility on him after we lost Adam Neale and Stephen Kennedy over the summer, they were like the three musketeers, so he has had to step up more and take on a bigger workload, which he maybe doesn’t get the credit for.

“He always scores goals, but he’s been doing more for the team this season so he makes us tick.”

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