THE words might come back to haunt us, but we believe tomorrow's Connacht Gold Super Cup final has all the ingredients for a real classic.
We might have said similar to last year's decider between the same finalists, Castlebar Celtic and Ballina Town, but this year is different. For one thing, games between the teams this year have produced a lot of goals. For another, both have had good seasons.
Granted, Celtic would want to have finished higher than third in the league but there were mitigating factors, not least the loss of some key personnel at crucial points during the season.
Last year Town put a stuttering league start behind them to finish mid-table safety and ultimately win the cup final, and it seemed to give the side a huge filip ahead of this season, where they started like a house on fire and keep those fires stoked all the way through to win the league title with an incredible 16 wins from 18 games played.
Celtic might not have reached Town's great heights even with a full roster of players available this year – that's something we'll just never know – but they did get one over the champions in the last game between the teams, an FAI Junior Cup clash in Belleek a few weeks ago.
And it's that game – which resulted in a 5-4 win for the visitors – that really whets the appetitite for tomorrow. Put simply, both teams know how to attack with speed, precision and skill. All going well, there'll be plenty of goals and goalmouth action at Solar 21 Park tomorrow afternoon.
However, as Town manager Mick Duffy conceded, cup finals bring added pressure to players. “I've seen some players freeze in finals and some thrive,” he said. “The main factor for me was to keep doing what we have been doing and try to maintain some type of standard at training. It has been difficult with so many in college, a few injuries and lack of momentum with the league being over.”
Unlike last year, Town go into the final this year as favourites. “I suppose on paper, with us being Super League champions and Celtic finishing third, it's easy to see why people might say we are favourites. Anyone who watched Celtic play in Belleek a few weeks ago might tell you otherwise though. Celtic showed how dangerous they can be and we never got to grips with them. They gave our young lads a bit of a footballing lesson. This weekend it's another game between two good sides.
“Finals are always close affairs so sometimes it can be a kick of a ball that decides them. It would be disappointing if our lads didn't perform to their potential on the day.”
Celtic manager Michael McNicholas – who was Duffy's immediate predecessor in Belleek as Ballina Town manager – reckons the league champions deserve the favourites tag. “Ballina walked the league so if you look at it from that perspective they're firm favourites, no doubt about it,” he said.
But, as Celtic manager, he understands the pressure there is to capture some silverware. “We know we have to deliver, as Castlebar Celtic. We just have to deliver tomorrow. That is what we want as a team.
“We're hurting over the fact that we didn't do enough during the league season, though we know the reasons why we didn't. But we're not making excuses. We just want to deliver now.”
Celtic have been picking up good results of late, scoring many goals in the process. And given that Town are potent in attack too, McNicholas is expecting goals tomorrow afternoon. “I think it's going to be a shootout. It's going to be a bit like a boxing match, with both teams going toe-to-toe.”
The Connacht Gold Super Cup final between Ballina Town and Castlebar Celtic kicks off at 2 p.m. tomorrow (Sunday, October 28) at Solar 21 Park, Milebush, Castlebar.