Ayre United and St George’s will lock horns in the final of this season’s Dixcart Railway Cup at the Bowl on Boxing Day.
The traditional Yuletide finale pits two of the form sides in Manx football against each other at the national stadium, kicking off at 2pm.
Ayre are enjoying a stellar season and currently lead the way in the Premier League, while Geordies are third in the table.
Both enjoyed high-scoring victories in the competition’s semi-finals, with the Tangerines thumping Rushen United 8-2 in Andreas while the Sains thrashed holders Corinthians 9-3 at Glencrutchery Road.
For Ayre this will be their maiden Railway Cup final appearance and only their second major cup final - but coincidentally their only previous one was in the 2002-03 FA Cup final when they defeated St George’s 2-1.
By contrast, Geordies have been seemingly perennial winners of the magnificent Railway Cup trophy and in player/manager Johnny Myers they have someone who has no fewer than eight winner’s medals on his own after 15 final appearances.
Similarly his opposite number, Ayre player/manager Nick Hurt, has also won three Railway Cups amongst many other pieces of silverware and so both teams are spearheaded by those with the know-how and experience to win this competition.
With FC Isle of Man not playing now until the new year, there’s no issue with dual-registered player availability which in particular is of benefit to Geordies, with Ayre surprisingly not having any stars involved in the Ravens’ playing squad thus far.
As such, Hurt appears to have a full-strength squad available for the Boxing Day final, with the following in contention to play:
Nick White, Jamie Callister, George Rawlinson, Christian Penswick, Orry Martin, Harry Weatherill, Declan Cummins, Shaun Kelly, Harry Best, Danny Oram, Jonny Shields, Aidan Cummins, Daniel Kelly (goalkeeper), Jed Fisher, Nick Hurt and Dean Tate.
Myers will be without a few regulars for the match, namely the injured duo of Alex Harrison and John Lund plus the suspended Sean Quaye, therefore Myers is expected to start in defence for the Saints.
But those absences are offset by the return of Ash Higginbotham, Chris Bass Jr and Nathan Cardy from FC Isle of Man duty.
On top of that, a number of the club’s university contingent are back in the island and in contention to play, namely Jay Skelcher-Maxwell, Jacob Crook, Joel Ibanez and Lewis Bridson, although Sid Batty is expected to miss out through injury.
The scheduled Premier League meeting between Ayre and St George’s back in October was postponed, therefore there’s no previous match to turn to for form this season.
On paper, with the Tangerines seven points clear of third-placed Geordies in the top flight, the northerners will probably start as favourites but the game promises to be closely-fought and could well go either way.
The game kicks off at 2pm at the Bowl on Sunday afternoon.
Full report, photos and player ratings in next week’s Isle of Man Examiner on sale Tuesday morning.