HAMILTON goalkeeper Danny Ireland is no stranger to grand final pressure and believes it is all on Edgeworth heading into the Northern NSW National Premier League grand final on Sunday.
Ireland will play in his third grand final in three seasons of top division football in Northern NSW when Olympic take on the minor premiers at Magic Park.
The 193-centimetre tall Ireland has arguably been the best gloveman in the competition over the past three years and has been a key factor in Olympic rising from sixth place in 2014 to third and grand finalists this season after moving from Lambton Jaffas.
Ireland was in goal as the Jaffas lost 4-1 to Broadmeadow Magic in the decider and he was back on the competition’s biggest day of the year in 2014 when Lambton defeated Weston 2-0.
He was optimistic about a snaring another major premiership on Sunday.
“I enjoyed my time at Lambton but I’m also enjoying my time at Hamilton,” Ireland said.
“They are good bunch of guys, just like they are at Lambton, and we’ve got a good team.
“We should do well in the grand final, we’ve just got to hang in there and keep pressing. Opportunities will come.”
The past two seasons Lambton Jaffas went in as the lower-ranked team from the regular season.
Hamilton were unbeaten this year until going down to Edgeworth 3-1 in round 12. They finished third as the Eagles powered to the minor premiership, three points clear of Jaffas and four ahead of Olympic.
Ireland indicated Hamilton were enjoying the underdog tag heading into the decider.
“The boys are feeling pretty relaxed,” Ireland said. “If anything the pressure is on Edgy. They won the comp and everyone is expecting them to win, so we go in there with no pressure.
“They’ve been great all season, but they are not unbeatable,” he said.
“We beat them during the season and they beat us, so I think we’re in there with a good chance.”
Hamilton are buoyant after coming back from 2-0 down 77 minutes into the second-leg semi-final against the Jaffas last week to progress to the decider 3-2 on aggregate.
The success came despite an uncharacteristic display from Ireland against the Jaffas.
The former Australian under-20 and Coventry City shot-stopper twice failed to clear the ball before Riley McNaughton scored Lambton’s second and Luke Remington beat him from an acute angle for the opener. The 24-year-old, though, was unfazed heading into the grand final.
“Over the course of the season, you get games where sometimes you’re not playing your best, but it’s just as long as the team pulls through, that’s all that matters,” he said.
“I’ve just got to train like I have, and prepare like I usually do.”
- Hunter Sports High School finished third in the Bill Turner Trophy girls’ knockout on Wednesday with a 3-0 win over Cavendish Road High at Speers Point.
Renee Pountney, Hannah Bourke and Abbey Taylor scored for Hunter Sports. Westfields Sports High won the final 7-0 over Holy Spirit, Bellambi.
Westfields won the Bill Turner Cup boys’ final 3-1 over Ipswich Grammar. St Peters, Maitland, drew 2-2 with Maribyrnong College in the third-place playoff.