SKELMANTHORPE are looking forward to one of the biggest games in their long history after confirmation that their Sheffield and Hallamshire FA Junior Challenge Cup final clash with HSBC Bank will take place at Barnsley’s Oakwell stadium.
Their high-profile meeting with the Sheffield side on Saturday week, May 1 (2.00), is a further sign of the resurgence of the club who were leading lights in the early days of the Huddersfield District League more than a century ago but almost folded in recent times.
“We suffered an exodus of players, the reserves had to step up to first-team level and we struggled big time,” explains secretary Dave Roberts, who has his own final to look forward to when Skelmanthorpe’s second team face neighbours Shelley in the Gee Cup final at Primrose Hill next Tuesday (6.00).
“Around five years ago, we were seriously close to the end, but being involved in junior football as well, I knew that if we could just keep going, there would be a crop of good lads coming along in a year or two.”
That’s exactly what happened, and fortunes on the field have certainly picked up, with both the firsts and seconds winning promotion last season.
This time around, Skelmanthorpe are fourth in Division II, and Roberts believes that had it not been for a sluggish start and various cup distractions, the club who won a hat trick of league titles between 1906-08 would be challenging for a top-flight place.
Making the Oakwell final has provided plenty of consolation for a side managed by ex-Emley man Steve Dyson and including his two sons Liam and Ben.
“Steve has done a great job and he and Robert Holmes also put in a lot of work keeping the pitch in good condition,” added Roberts.
“The bulk of the players are local to the area, there’s a strong sense of identity about the place, and people who live in the village are taking an interest in our fortunes, which is encouraging.
“We were pleased just to get to the Sheffield Cup final, but finding out that it will be at Barnsley has been brilliant, because it’s every local player’s dream to run out at a stadium of that standard.
“It’s not just about a day out, though, because we’re going there to try and win the competition.
“We don’t know too much about our opponents, but we’ll try to play our normal passing game and impose ourselves on the match.”