THE 2013 Gilfillan Cup Final has rightly been described as a typical David v Goliath affair, with former winners, Westbank United, taking on unfashionable First Division HML on St. Stephen’s Day morning.
Add in the fact that Westbank remain undefeated in all competitions, HML must be considered underdogs given that they play two divisions below their opponents.
However, HML have already accounted for the Premier Division leaders, Clifton Villa and another top Premiership side, Brandywell Celtic, en-route to this showpiece final, therefore, United would be well advised to guard against the dangers of complacency.
That said, Westbank have enjoyed great consistency in the Saturday Morning League this season and manager, Robbie Mitchell, will have his troops well prepared for this particular clash.
HML may not be fancied coming in to this game but they have shown that they are made of stern stuff as they knocked and their tenacious performance against Clifton Villa in the quarter-finals was impressive.
They then proved that their victory over the men from the Top of the Hill was not a fluke having gone on to account for an experienced Brandywell Celtic in the semi-finals.
So there’s no doubt that team boss, Sean Martin, will have left no stone unturned in his sides preparation for this particular game.
Indeed, one could argue that Westbank United had enjoyed much the easier passage to the final although they did well to see off the challenge of Phoenix Swifts in the Group Stages.
DEFEFATED DU PONT,
In the quarter-final Westbank ended the challenge of Du Pont before overcoming Strabane Athletic in the last four.
For HML, Thursday morning’s match is the first time they have contested a final since joining the Saturday Morning League and it comes as no surprise that their manager has a full complement of players to choose from.
And HML boast quality personnel who will cause Westbank no shorage of problems. Individuals to look out for include Emmett Friel, Emmett Coyle, Gary Doherty and their top scorer and talisman James McLaughlin who has been scoring goals for fun this season.
Established as recently at 2009, the club has grown in stature but Sean Martin is under no illusion at the task which lies ahead at Wilton Park.
“Obviously, we know we are coming into this game as underdogs and that will suit us and if Westbank United happen to have an off-day, then we have every chance of causing an upset,” he said.
“This is a cup final, a one-off game, and anything can happen. We hope to get the rub of the green and we realise we will have to be at our best to cause a shock,” he added.
Martin is also fully aware of the fact that Westbank have contested four finals over the last five years and they are a very experienced side.
“As I’ve said, we will need luck and we will have to repeat our performances which saw us succeed against Clifton Vill and Brandywell Celtic if we are to make an impact,” he conclued.a
Westbank United boast a very experienced side which has put together this season and they are well equipped to win the Premier Division League title this season.
They also have a very good cup pedigree and if they put their experience to good use they should be well able to account for First Division opponents.
In fact, Westbank were founded just eight years ago and since joining the Saturday Morning League they have won the Gilfillan Cup twice and, more importantly, they have also secured a Premier League title.
On paper this game is expected to be a totally one-sided affair, but in cup final that counts for nothing. Add in the possibility that the weather forecast for St. Stephen’s Day may prove to be difficult, then form and experience could also count for nothing.
Former Derry City and Limavady United hitman, Aaron Nash (pictured right), has been among the goals this season and is probably one of the best centre forwards playing at this level. If he turns up with his shooting boots on, then HML could be in for a tough 90 minutes.
But one thing is guaranteed, neither of these sides will be sitting back and those in attendance can expect an open, flowing game of football.
And if HML get it right defensively - just like they did against Clifton Villa and Brandywell Celtic - then they will have a real chance.
It’s also worth nothing that neither Villa nor Brandywell managed to score against HML during those games.
If presented with a scoring chance, the First Division outfit have shown that they are capable of hitting on the counter and scoring.
However, one cannot ignore the fact that Westbank United have players who have tasted action in both the Irish League and League of Ireland and that experience will surely have an impact in this final.
Predictions can be difficult in one-off finals and while HML will be rightly considered major underdogs, a victory for them would prove to be hugely significant.
They will, no doubt, attempt to make it difficult for Westbank to get into their free-flowing rhythm but will they be able to cope with United’s constant probing and pressing.
My prediction for this game is that Westbank United will again lift the Gilfillan Cup following a comfortable victory.
Admission to the final is £2 and all money collected, less matchday expenses, will be distributed to a local charity
Wilton Park venue operates a strict no alcohol policy.