By Kieran Lynch
PORTGLENONE may ultimately not need to win against local rivals Ahoghill to secure their passageway into the next round, but it certainly gives them their best chance of progression.
However, don’t say that to manager John McKeever who only had one thing on his mind regarding Saturday evening’s derby clash – victory.
A loss and they may still advance, but there are too many permutations on offer to take the foot off the gas.
“We know that we need to win to progress through to the knockout rounds,” he said.
“Ourselves and Ahoghill always have well contested games, there is never a lot in it. We would have good respect for them, as they would for us.
“We’re pretty familiar with each other, because we’re so close together. But we’re excited, it’s going to be a really tough challenge at the weekend.”
Last year’s beaten semi-finalists Portglenone set out their stall earlier this year by winning the Division 1A title, but they haven’t found things easy in the championship to this point, and a 2-13 to 0-14 defeat against Lamh Dhearg last time out, leaves them in a precarious position heading into the final round of games.
“Things have been going well,” said McKeever.
“We have had a very good year so far. Winning the league for the very first time in the club’s history was a good stepping stone going into the championship.
“However, we probably haven’t performed at our best in the championship. But with that said, that isn’t always a bad thing, because you’re always looking to improve as you go forward.
“We had a good win against St Enda’s, and then in the defeat against Lamh Dhearg, to be fair, they deserved the win.
“We have used a lot of players in the championship this year due to injuries, which we’re not using as an excuse, because that will be good for the young players in the long run, to get them that experience.
“We have a few players that are a couple of weeks away from returning, so it’s up to us to stay in the championship so we can get them back in again.”
As can happen in any final round of group fixtures, there are a range of permutations which will be followed throughout the hour, as Lamh Dhearg host St Enda’s at the same time.
However, with Portglenone currently having a worse points difference than those two sides, there is a scenario where they could win the game, but miss out.
However, McKeever says the players just have to do their jobs and let the rest take care of itself.
“I suppose you have to look at it, when weighing things up,” he said.
“But we’re not going to be talking to the players about it. The message from us is to go out and get the result – because that’s the most important thing – and we will see where that takes us.”