Cup Final Warm-Up
The Caley Jags have made a hastily arranged Cup Final warm-up ahead of the Celtic meeting as we have time to kill before the Scottish Cup Final. It's off to County Tyrone in Northern Ireland to face Dungannon Swifts. Who I hear you ask? Well, they are a Northern Irish, semi-professional football club playing in the NIFL Premiership. The club, founded in 1949, has risen from the Mid-Ulster league to the top tier in Northern Ireland since its election to the Irish League First Division in 1997. Dungannon earned promotion from Irish League First Division to the Premier Division in the 2002–03 season. They are currently trying to avoid relegation. The Swifts hail from Dungannon, County Tyrone and plays their home matches at Stangmore Park. Club colours are royal blue with white trim (home strip) and yellow with a red trim (away strip).
RELEGATION GROUP (bottom half of table)
Our own Immortal Howden Ender will take up the story with this preview for you.
Well would you feckin "Adam and Eve" it - Inverness Caley Jags are back in Europe - albeit in a highly unlikely and unexpected friendly in Northern Ireland. On Saturday 20th May, two weeks prior to the biggest game in the clubs history, we run out onto Stangmore Park in County Tyrone, approximately 40 miles west of Belfast, to gain much needed game playing time but probably not in front of a potential 3K capacity crowd.
So WHY Dungannon Swifts do you ask? Probable reasons are that there were no other takers and that Dungannon are in a similar conundrum as ourselves. They are also running very late in their season with nobody to play!! They have just managed to attract Ballymacash Rangers but were defeated 3-2 although their goals by Cahal McGinty (where do I know that name from?) and Sam Anderson were extolled. We must be a bigger outfit as we have to pay £5 a head entrance fee whereas they only charged £3 for Ballymacash.
If you think that the SFL are inept - then just look at the situation with the NIFL and Warrenpoint Town. Due to the legal processes Swifts had been lying idle since beating Newry City in their final game of the season on April 29th, following on from beating Portadown 3-2 in a massive relegation game the previous week. Those wins should have set up the Swifts to take on Warrenpoint Town in a two legged Premiership Promotion / Relegation tie in early May. But the NIFL refused to grant a license for Warrenpoint to play in the Premiership in the 2023/24 season. But - of course - there is a lengthy appeals procedure and - you got it - Warrenpoint appealed!!
Warrenpoint admitted to an unpaid tax bill and repaid it. But the NIFL proceeded. There was even a suggestion that Annagh United should replace Warrenpoint but that was also appealed against. Anyway to cut a long story short the proposed new dates for the Swifts and Town to go into battle are Tuesday May 30th and Saturday June 3rd (why does that date mean something?). BUT that is only a possibility and it may go on for longer!!
And what about the history of Dungannon Swifts - well they have been in Europe twice. In the UEFA Cup in 2007/8 they went out to the famed Sudova Marijampole of Lithuania. They fared the same in the Intertoto Cup (remember that one!!) when they were beaten by the equally renowned Knattspyrnudeild Keflavik of Iceland.
Anyway the Swifts are managed by an old foe of ours - Dean Sheils of the Hibees, Sevco, Pars and Killie fame. Many will remember that he joined in some friendly banter with our own support. They do have two Jocks in their squad - a front man called Joe Moore and Darren Cole. Darren however was on loan from Glentoran and may now be on his hols. I am reliably informed that men to look out for are the defender Mayoma Aminashasun and another front man - Marc Welsh.
Here's a Caley Jag mug on the road to Hampden
But this "find" only highlights how difficult it can be to arrange games at this time of the season. As the Swifts chairman - Keith Boyd - stated "We have players on holiday and others are going in the next few weeks". It is all very well getting together on a regular basis, maintaining and improving fitness levels, trying out new tactics, systems and ploys but having a competitive opposition is a major requirement. This may well be our last chance before the Cup Final!! So surely our starting X1 at Dungannon will be the starting X1 for the Cup Final? Or will Dodds try to fool the watching Celtic scouts? Will the second half be a substitute galore affair? Will both sides be instructed to 'go easy on each other'?
And what about the expense? Presumably the Costa del Tyronne journey will replace any Costa del Sol planning? Will we have another one or two "proper" run outs next week? Surely we could attract and rustle up a Highland League Select or even a local Junior Select? Only time will tell.
My good self, like many others, would probably have been travelling with more notice. A weekend in Northern Ireland is a tasty dish. But there are some going and may I take the opportunity of suggesting a visit to Feenys or McAleers. Have a swift "doddsie" for me please, cheers.
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