BARROW ISLAND and Distington go head-to-head on Saturday (2 July) in the 2016 BARLA Cumbria Cup Final, with the latter outfit hot favourites but the Island quietly confident.
Distington head the Cumbria Men’s League with a 100 per cent record while the Island, although second in the table, have lost three matches.
One of those, earlier this month, was against Distington, who prevailed 24-4 on their own patch.
That, however, doesn’t faze Barrow Island stalwart John Jefferson.
“We were without three of our regular forwards that day,” he reflected, “while we’ll be at strength for the final.
“There were factors, too, behind our other two defeats in the league. Maryport had one or two lads in who had returned from the professional ranks, while we had several players away when we met Walney Central, but couldn’t get the fixture postponed.”
He added: “We’re confident. We have a very good young coach in place in former BARLA international Joe Elliott, who is so hands-on that he turns out for our `A’ team. It’s all about what happens on the day.”
One issue that will operate in the Island’s favour on Saturday is that the final is being staged on their own doorstep, at Barrow’s Craven Park. Distington, who are based between Workington and Whitehaven, face a testing journey down the winding coast road – an issue that prevented the county-wide Cumbria League from becoming reality until a few years ago.
It’s a factor in the approach of Head Coach Carl Hewer, who said: “We always stop off halfway down and have the players walk for a while. It’s a dodgy road, but it’s worth it otherwise they could struggle to get their land legs back in time for kick-off.
“We’ll be doing the same on Saturday, in fact we’ll be sticking to our normal routine. This is a huge occasion but it can be a mistake to move away from your set procedures. At the end of the day there’s a game of rugby to be played and making things a bit too special can lead to lads almost forgetting that.”
This is, however, a special occasion. “This is the only cup, other than the National Cup, that we’ve never won,” said Hewer. “We targeted it at the beginning of the campaign and we’re hungry to lift it, especially after missing out in the 2010-11 season to Seaton.
“We’re being touted as favourites, maybe because of how we’re placed in the league, but that won’t mean much come kick-off. Barrow Island are a very good side who, like us, play good rugby. They’re the best team we’ve played this season so we won’t be taking them lightly, especially as the game is being played on their patch. We’ve a couple of lads out because of holidays as well, which is how it is in summer, that’s just how it is.”
ROLL OF HONOUR
1982-83 Kells 15 Hensingham 11
1983-84 Kells 14 Wath Brow Hornets 13
1984-85 Glasson Rangers 14 Ulverston 10
1985-86 Kells 34 Lowca 12
1986-87 Kells 20 Egremont Rangers 12
1987-88 Kells 36 Wath Brow Hornets 7
1988-89 Barrow Island 16 Kells 10
1989-90 Millom 9 Kells 8
1990-91 Hensingham 7 Millom 0
1991-92 Kells 14 Ellenborough Rangers 8
1992-93 Kells 2 Hensingham 0
1993-94 Hensingham 11 Kells 4
1994-95 Walney Central 18 Hensingham 16
1995-96 Ellenborough Rangers 26 Barrow Island 0
1996-97 Ellenborough Rangers 44 Westfield Hotel 16
1997-98 Ellenborough Rangers 28 Broughton Red Rose 14
1998-99 Wath Brow Hornets 16 Ellenborough Rangers 10
1999-00 Wath Brow Hornets 32 Hensingham 12
2000-01 Wath Brow Hornets 32 Egremont Rangers 6
2001-02 Wath Brow Hornets 46 Kells 6
2002-03 Hensingham 8 Kells 6
2003-04 Seaton Rangers 34 Barrow Island 2
2004-05 Ellenborough Rangers 16 Egremont Rangers 10
2005-06 Barrow Island 18 Seaton Rangers 6
2006-07 Broughton Red Rose 18 Ellenborough Rangers 8
2007-08 Ellenborough Rangers 31 Kells 28
2008-09 Ellenborough Rangers 19 Kells 8
2009-10 Kells 18 Seaton Rangers 16
2010-11 Seaton Rangers 22 Distington 16
2011-12 Kells 24 Walney Central 4
2012-13 Kells 42 Glasson Rangers 4
2013 Maryport 20 Walney Central 14
2014 Maryport 42 Walney Central 12
2015 Seaton Rangers 42 Walney Central 10
ROUTES TO THE FINAL
ROUND ONE: Bye
QUARTER-FINAL: Ulverston (h) 24-22
SEMI-FINAL: Glasson Rangers (h) 30-26
ROUND ONE: Hensingham (h) 44-4
QUARTER-FINAL: Ellenborough Rangers (h) 24-0
SEMI-FINAL: Walney Central (h) 52-16