Belfast Telegraph

Ardglass boss Deegan excited at Irish Cup run

By Martin Mawhinney

As Irish Cup fever takes hold of junior football once again this weekend, few managers know the importance of keeping their feet on the ground more than Christopher Deegan.

The Ardglass supremo has enjoyed a whirlwind start to the season, both in his capacity as an Amateur League Premier Division boss, and as a diehard Liverpool supporter, with both his clubs perched at the top of their respective divisions in the first weeks.

Two months in, however, and while neither Ardglass nor the Merseyside Reds have the same lofty vantage point, they both are currently well-placed to continue in that “there or thereabouts” position to which many managers are so fond of referring.

Coupled with this, a home draw in Northern Ireland’s top knockout competition could have his players dreaming of that hallowed “distraction” that amateur clubs dream of each season – an Irish Cup run all the way to round five or beyond, with the glory and potential financial windfall of drawing one of the Irish League’s top clubs.

This Saturday, Banbridge Rangers are the side trying to end that dream, and while Deegan confesses he’s up against something of an unknown quantity from his point of view, he wants his team to stay focused and realistic about the journey ahead.

The Ardglass boss said: “It’s the Irish Cup, and anyone could beat anybody, especially the way we have been playing lately.

“I haven’t got a clue what Banbridge Rangers are like, but we have been very up and down lately. We went to Ards Rangers and beat them 3-0, and then the next week we go and get beat 4-1 at Comber Rec.

“It’s hard to say what the problem is. People see themselves at the top of the league and get excited, and yes, perhaps a bit of complacency sets in – I know, because I support Liverpool too, but in both cases, it is far too early to get carried away.”

The fact that Ardglass finished third from bottom in their first season in the Premier Division has probably added to their elation at such a promising opening, and they will be further boosted in the coming weeks.

Several of the team’s key players are still involved in Gaelic competition and it won’t be until later in the month that Deegan’s squad really begins to take shape.

The former Lisburn Distillery player admitted: “I suppose it’s something that a lot of teams have to deal with at this stage, but I haven’t had a full squad for training this season. That will be something for us to look forward to, but the main thing is that we improve on last season.

“When I saw the performance against Ards Rangers, I thought it was the best I had ever seen Ardglass play, but the next week’s game was probably the worst. When you make a mistake, it’s important you put it right.”

This Saturday’s game against their Mid Ulster Intermediate A opponents will give Ardglass that very opportunity, and Deegan – whose sons Ruairi and Ronan play in the club’s youth teams – knows just what a run in the Irish Cup could do for all involved.

He said: “It’s a great opportunity for all players, young and old, and a chance to play an Irish League club. It would be a big thing for Ardglass FC, my assistants Harry Walsh, John Beattie and Paul Mullan who have all done a great job so for, and for the whole village.”

Also out to make the most of their moment on the big stage are Ards Rangers. They proved their prowess last season by making it all the way to the Intermediate Cup final, and will hope for similar run in this year’s Irish Cup. Their second round opponents are Derriaghy CC – the unbeaten Division 1A side.

There is also the tantalising prospect of some of the most prominent representatives of the Amateur League and Mid Ulster League clashing, with Intermediate A champions Dollingstown travelling to Clarence Cup, Border Cup and Division 1A title holders Crumlin Star, and Immaculata playing host to Camlough Rovers.

No doubt there will also be a big crowd at Paisley Park for the Shankill derby between Albert Foundry and Shankill United.

For the full list of Irish Cup second round and all other forthcoming games this weekend, see our fixtures section.

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