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Friday 03 Feb 2017
Ahoghill and Beragh contest ‘tie of the round’

The long road to IFA Junior Cup glory takes another step forward this weekend when the 16 clubs still left in the competition contest the fifth round.

The designated 'tie of the round' sees Ballymena Saturday Morning League side Ahoghill Thistle entertain Beragh Swifts (kick-off 1.30pm). 

Thistle have been enjoying a tremendous season. They have collected a maximum return from their eight league outings so far and have made it through to the quarter-finals of the Co Antrim Junior Shield.

On top of that they defeated long-time Junior Cup kingpins Harryville Homers to lift the local Top Four trophy, although the Homers did exact revenge in the O'Kane Cup decider on Boxing Day. 

They can boast in their ranks Irish League experience in the form of Randal Reid, Conor Gregg, Matthew Boyd and Chris Getty who arrived from Ballyclare Comrades earlier this season. Also worth a mention is local lad Ryan Sands who, playing in midfield, helped himself to 40 goals last term. 

Tyrone side Beragh Swifts, currently third in the Fermanagh & Western League, make the journey to Co Antrim on the back of a league defeat to Magheraveely but that was very much a blip, coming after a 13-match unbeaten run stretching back to the first weekend in September. 

Swifts will be looking to Stephen Browne to continue his scoring exploits if they are to overcome their hosts. The 31-year-old former Knockbreda and Dundela forward has found the net in every round so far, including a brace in last month's defeat of Ballyoran. 

On top of that he was included in Harry McConkey’s Northern Ireland Regions Cup squad for qualifiers in Moldova back in October, earning a cap in the defeat to Istanbul (representing Turkey).

Also getting among the goals has been former Ballinamallard United man Jonathan McKeown who, while not as prolific as Browne, has scored in the last three rounds.

The runners-up for the last two years, Rosemount Rec, continue their quest to go one better with a visit to Enniskillen Rangers. 

Since defeating Drumbo in the last round the Greyabbey side have maintained their unbeaten run, progressing in the Cochrane Corry Cup, the Clarence Cup and enjoying a five point gap at the top of Northern Amateur 2A. 

Rangers go into the game on the back of a 7-2 league victory over Enniskillen Santos but before that they did suffer a three-goal reversal to Strathroy Harps.

Harps, the last side to lift the trophy before Harryville Homers' dominance, make the journey to Belfast to face HW Welders U20s at the Blanchflower Stadium.

Saturday's complete fifth round line-up reads:- 

Ahoghill Thistle v Beragh Swifts

Enniskillen Rangers v Rosemount Rec

Finaghy v Rectory Rangers

Hill Street v Strule United

HW Welders Reserves v Strathroy Harps

Newry Celtic v Cookstown Youth

Tullymore Swifts v Lower Shankill

Woodvale v Claudy Rovers