Belfast Telegraph

Diarmuid O'Carroll vows to keep hitting goals for Crusaders

Crusaders 4 - Carrick Rangers 1

By David Mason

Crusaders striker Diarmuid O'Carroll banked his 16th goal of the season in Saturday's Irish Cup victory over Carrick Rangers and then warned there is still more to come.

The Shore Road boys remain on track for a double, but they made hard work of their latest offering against a battling Belfast Telegraph Championship One side.

In fact, a shock looked on the cards when Craig McClean headed into his own net to gift the visitors a first-half lead. But goals from Richard Clarke, who bagged a double, O'Carroll and teenager Gavin Whyte eased the Crues into a semi-final meeting with Glentoran later this month.

"It's going well," beamed ex-Cliftonville man O'Carroll. "That's 16 for the season. I've played in a number of positions, so it's not a bad return. Hopefully, I can keep it going.

"I've now reset my target. I just keep ticking them off. I'll now probably settle for 20. If I manage to reach that, then I'll up it again.

"To be honest, we didn't play all that well. We were not good in the first half.

"Carrick are a decent side. They are one of the top teams in the Championship. A lot of their boys have Premiership experience and they came here in a really good run of form.

"The boss was disappointed. He told us to waken up. We went more direct in the second half and it paid off. We had to dig in and battle."

With the Crues sitting pretty, six points clear in the Premiership, and now in the Irish Cup semi-final, O'Carroll insists his team will continue to do their talking on the pitch - and not off it.

"People are starting to say that the league is now ours to lose, but I don't buy into that," he added. "It's a well-used cliché, but we take one game at a time. We've a few difficult away games coming up, so we won't be taking anything for granted. It could be a great end to the season for us - but it could also be a disaster.

"It's great to be in the semi-final. It didn't really matter who we were drawn against. There is nothing ever easy at that stage.

"I've never won the Irish Cup. I was in the Cliftonville squad that lost in the final to Glentoran a couple of years ago, so it would be nice to get back there again."

Carrick boss Gary Haveron had no complaints with the outcome, although he fleetingly thought a shock was on the cards when McClean put through his own goal.

"I was pleased with our first-half performance," he said. "We nullified Crusaders to a certain degree and we kept their danger men quite. We switched off for their first goal and were punished. It was scrappy from our point.

"They upped the gears in the second half and ran out comfortable winners in the end.

"Our heads went down when they got their second goal. I think the score line was a wee bit cruel on us, but sometimes that happens. I told the boys that's the difference between Championship and Premier League clubs. Hopefully, they can learn from it."

Crusaders: O'Neill, Burns, Magowan, Leeman, McClean, Whyte, Caddell, Clarke, Owens, O'Carroll, O'Flynn. Substitutions: Hanley (O'Flynn, 79 mins), O'Hanlon (Caddell, 87 mins), Peoples (Whyte, 88 mins).

Carrick: Neeson, Smyth, Traynor, Donaghy, Arthur, Watson, Harmon, Cherry, Chines, Taggart, McCloskey. Substitutions: Lynch (Watson, 67 mins), Dick (Taggart, 79 mins), Martin (Cherry, 88 mins).

Man of the match: Richard Clarke

Match rating: 6/10

Referee: Mervyn Smyth (Belfast)

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