- Leek set for Aspatria semi-final
- Cup fever grips Staffordshire moorlands club again
When Leek captain Gary McDermott attended England’s international against New Zealand at Twickenham in November he could not have imagined that less than five months later he would be within one match of a dream appearance at HQ himself.
Leek have since enjoyed the most successful season in their history, winning the Midlands Two West (North) league title and the Midlands Intermediate Cup.
The latter success has taken the Staffordshire moorlands club through to the semi-finals of the RFU Intermediate Cup, where they will host Cumbrians Aspatria at their Esterchem Park headquarters on Saturday, April 19.
“I’ve been to Twickenham with my dad to watch internationals and was there for the New Zealand match before Christmas but I didn’t think then that I might be within one match of playing there myself,” said McDermott.
“It’s a personal dream that one day you have the chance to walk out at Twickenham.
“It remains a great prize for all grassroots players, whether you have played at a higher level or not, to play at HQ.
“We’re close to that prize, we’ve got to make sure that we do the job in the semi-final.”
McDermott has played county rugby for Staffordshire and National League rugby for Macclesfield but Leek is his hometown and he is proud to have led the club into a national semi-final.
There was a crowd of around 700 for the Midlands final victory over Bridgnorth last month and Leek expect to top that for Aspatria’s visit.
“People you would not necessarily expect to be interested in rugby have been coming up to me in the supermarket and asking about the game,” McDermott said.
“It’s a match that has generated a lot of interest in the area and we are expecting another big crowd. It’s great to have a home tie and the preparations are the same as for the Bridgnorth game with a marquee being erected at the ground.”
McDermott was Leek’s hero against Bridgnorth when he landed a late winning conversion and also in the Midlands semi-final at Newbold-on-Avon where his touchline kick levelled the score and took Leek through on the away team rule.
“Hopefully it will be a bit less tense this time,” McDermott said. “Our home form has been outstanding this season and hopefully being at home again will help us.
“We’ve exceeded our expectations so far this season. We targeted a top three finish in the league but hoped that we would do better in the cup competitions, both the RFU and Staffordshire Cups, than we have in previous seasons.
“We’ve not always fielded our strongest side in the cups but we have this year and we’ve reached a national semi-final.”