THE YORK & District Minster Engineering League representative team are looking forward to a “massive occasion” as they look to lift the FA Inter-League Cup at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane ground on Sunday.

Having fought their way through four rounds, the York team will tackle the neighbouring North Riding League at the home of the Championship Blades in a 1pm kick-off.

The North Riding team have replaced the London Amateur Football Combination side, who beat them in the semi-final, but were then kicked out of the competition following a mix-up over international clearance.

It was the second reprieve the North Riding reps have received in this season’s competition after losing 3-2 in the first round to the Cumberland County League, who were also found guilty of breaching tournament rules.

The York team, who have played their home ties at Tadcaster Albion and Harrogate Town, have overcome the West Riding County Amateur League (2-1), the Chester and Wirral League (8-1), the Staffordshire County League (4-0) and the Kent County League (4-1 after extra-time) en route to the final.

Joint-boss Chris Smith, who is also manager of premier division outfit Osbaldwick, is now confident in the team’s ability to clinch victory in the final, without under-estimating the opposition.

“It’s a massive occasion for all of us because, in local football, you don’t get too many chances to play at a Championship ground, so it will be a great experience,” Smith admitted.

“We’re also very confident going into the game because of the way the lads have played in each round. They’ve got better and better and we feel we’ve put a very good squad together, not just a team, because people have come in following injuries and taken their chances.

“We’re confident in all the players, but we’re not over-confident. North Riding have already been beaten twice in the competition but, for one reason or another, have got to the final and there are quite a few players from Boro Rangers who I’ve watched play Old Malton St Mary’s a couple of times.

“Six or seven of them also play on Sundays for The Cleveland, who my York Nomads team beat in the North Riding County Cup final last season, so we know more about them than we would have done the London league. That familiarity can be good or bad, but we know you always get good footballers in the north-east, who will be strong physically.”

Fellow manager Simon Wood, meanwhile, feels the team spirit, which has grown despite Sunday’s squad being drawn from nine different clubs, could prove decisive against North Riding, having been the key to semi-final success.

“During the cup run, we’ve won 4-0 and scored eight in another match, but the semi-final challenged us a bit more,” Wood reasoned. “The opposition set off so quickly and our lads had to find a response.

“We still went a goal up and, after they equalised, we didn’t fold. We’ve gelled together a group of players from various teams, who might have had their mini rivalries, but the team now feels like one that plays every week.

“We’ve not just picked from the top three or four teams. We’ve tried to look at the best players and not the best clubs.

“Some of the players have been fighting relegation this season and we’ve got another player in the first division, but it’s such a competitive league now. When my team Tadcaster Magnets were second bottom, we beat the side top of the league and it’s good that some lads are now being recognised as good players when they might not have been before.

“They all want to pass the ball too and are a pleasure to watch.”

Smith is in agreement about team camaraderie, adding: “We asked people to buy into this team from the first training session. We didn’t want people just dipping into it as and when or calling off at the last minute, as had sometimes happened in the past.”

The coaches have also worked with, rather than against, their fellow club managers and, due to many teams’ hectic fixture schedules at the business end of the season, the reps will only have a meet-up, rather than a training session, ahead of the final.

But the players will travel together by coach and sport new Keal Teamwear tracksuits that have been supplied by the league.

Along with national glory, there is also a double incentive for both sides this weekend – the winners will get the opportunity to compete for their country in Slovakia this October during the qualifying stages for the Inter-League European Championship.

On that prospect, Wood admitted: “We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but it would obviously be very exciting to represent our country in Europe and get kitted out in all the England gear.”

The York & District League’s FA Inter-League Cup final squad is: Mike Clancy, Jamie Wilstrop, Jake Duckworth (all Wiggington Grasshoppers), Sam Lingard, Andrew Simpson (both Sporting Knavesmire), Matty Pallister (Copmanthorpe), Dale Holding (Rawcliffe), Cameron Sanderson, Cameron Mullhearn, Matty Mullhearn (all Dringhouses), Scott Nicholas, Damon Cox (both Old Malton St Mary’s), Chris Bilton (Osbaldwick), James Edmond, Chris Dyson (both Huntington Rovers) and Chris Dempsey (F1 Racing).

Admission at Bramall Lane will be £5 for adults and £1 for U16s.