Will it be a sweet 16th for Freebooters, or can Callan United make it a fab fourth title?
That’s the question. The answer will be provided this weekend as this year’s winner of the McCalmont Cup is decided.
After plenty of thrills and spills, the final of the Kilkenny & District League’s blue riband competition will see Freebooters A and Callan United do battle in the McCalmont Cup final in Derdimus on Sunday (3pm).
The big game will see two of Kilkenny’s form teams meet. While Callan may have played in Division One, they won’t be overawed by their Premier Division opponents.
Of the two sides Callan are the most recent winners. They ended a 40-year wait when they captured the 2012 title with a penalty shootout win over Newpark. The triumph has sparked a rebirth, as successive promotions means they will be playing top flight football next season.
That is to be welcomed after they had fallen as far as Division Two.
Having already secured the Division One league title, Callan could end the campaign with a potential treble. They are also in the running for the Division One Cup.
For Freebooters Sunday’s final will their first since 2011, which is almost a famine for the competition’s most successful side. While the Blues waited 18 years to win their first Cup in 1955, they made up for it since, capturing the title on 14 other occasions - their best run has seen them win the Cup six times since 2000.
Both have cut impressive paths. Anthony Hanney’s Blues looked good when dismantling East End United A 4-0 in Bennettsbridge in the second round. Callan (under the care of Barry Doyle as managers Stephen Byrne and Rory O’Donovan are on duty with the Irish Army in Syria) earned the plaudits in the quarter-finals, beating Freshford Town away from home.
They are the only Kilkenny & District League side to get a result in Woodsgift all season.
The quality also shone through in the semis. Freebooters had to shake off the cobwebs to beat Evergreen, but they showed style, not least in midfield. Callan’s attack was menacing as they beat Thomastown United A.
Journey to the final
First round: Callan United 4, Fort Rangers 1. Newpark C 0, Freebooters A 8.
Second round: East End United A 0, Freebooters A 4. St Anne’s 2, Callan United 3.
Quarter-finals: Freshford Town 1, Callan United 2. Newpark A 1, Freebooters A 3.
Semi-finals: Evergreen A 1, Freebooters A 1 (AET - ’Booters won 5-4 on pens); Callan United 2, Thomastown United A 0.
The match officials have been named. Tom Walsh will take charge of the Cup final, with Lee Kill and Derek Campion as his assistants. Fourth official is John Martin. TC Tyres will sponsor the officials’ kits.
This will be Tom’s fourth time to referee the final. His did it before in 1986 (Callan v Evergreen), 1991 (East End United v Bagenalstown) and 1999 (Evergreen v Southend United).
He has some way to go to catch the record holder. Tom Hogan refereed seven McCalmont Cup finals, and he played in five!