Annagh’s Ryan Harpur drawing underdogs cup strength from Dungannon glory days

Ryan Harpur left Dungannon Swifts with a landmark medal and long list of memories but returns to Stangmore Park inspired by the secret behind turning an underdogs role into cup strength.

By Patrick Van Dort
Saturday, 5th February 2022, 1:01 am

The highlight of eight seasons at the Swifts arrived in 2018 when Harpur was captain for a League Cup final triumph over Ballymena United that secured the club’s historic first taste of major senior silverware.

The squad bond Harpur feels played such a vital role in helping guide the provincial club to prime success is a key aspect of progress with current club Annagh United.

Now he heads back to the home of so many career highlights hoping to dash Dungannon dreams and add another exciting chapter to Annagh’s modern adventure.

Ryan Harpur won the League Cup at Dungannon Swifts in 2018 but now is hoping for knockout glory against his old club with Annagh United. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

Sitting in contention for a promotion play-off place in Annagh’s first season back at Championship level, Harpur is hoping that winning momentum across league play can transfer into the knockout stage - with the benefit of his experience at pulling off a shock over the big boys.

“We still have a WhatsApp group going with players from that Dungannon squad and get together regularly socially for meals or golf,” said Harpur ahead of the Irish Cup trip to Dungannon with Annagh. “I’ve always put a lot of emphasis on the importance of a squad having that togetherness.

“I’ve been lucky to have that over my career but Dungannon was certainly a special time.

“When I think back to that cup season the semi-final victory over Crusaders was the big one that really sticks out as they were such a successful squad at the time, so dominant.

“But we had such great fitness, team spirit and desire.

“I can see some similarities between that Dungannon squad and what we have now at Annagh.

“I grew up across the road from Annagh’s ground and have family who played for the club in the past, so I’ve strong connections.

“It’s a great family club and we’ve a strong bond.

“At Dungannon we were underdogs so often and now I’m going back to a place which holds some really special memories.

“I think as underdogs it’s important to show belief, otherwise there’s no point.

“We are a division below Dungannon but need to look at our Championship momentum and what has helped us get to this point.

“Anyone can beat another team on any given day.”

Harpur embraced a leadership role at Dungannon and, at 33 years old, accepts a sense of responsibilty towards helping his Annagh team-mates.

“I’ve been lucky to have the captain’s armband at every club, even when at Everton and with Northern Ireland schoolboys,” he said. “I’m quite quiet off the pitch but I enjoy the responsibility.

“That’s what I have at Annagh, along with the other senior players, given we’ve so many promising young lads at the club that could really push on.

“I’ve respect for so many people around Dungannon Swifts and it’s rare someone leaves the club with a bad word.

“It was a major part of my career...it has only been a few years since the League Cup final but I would imagine in another 10 years lots of us will still be in touch.”

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