Belfast Telegraph

Armagh relying on past experience to topple cup holders Institute

Martin Mawhinney

Institute’s defence of the Coca-Cola Intermediate Cup continues on Tuesday night with a semi-final showdown against Armagh City (Mill Meadow, Castledawson, 7.45pm), with both managers urging caution not to take their respective opponents lightly.

The men from the Riverside Stadium are one of the main protagonists in the Belfast Telegraph Championship One title race, and in facing the only Championship Two side left in the competition, are arguably taking on the tournament outsiders.

Yet ‘Stute boss Paul Kee will have his players braced for a tough challenge against a team who have already proved themselves formidable opposition in knockout games this season.

He told The Park: “Armagh’s record in the cups has been good this year, and they’ve done well against teams in leagues above ours.

“The fact that they beat Ards and ran Glentoran close in the Irish Cup shows how seriously we will have to take them. I watched them against Queen’s recently and they are an enthusiastic side with plenty of energy… I can see how they have done well.

“It will be the team that has more intensity and belief that goes through. We have to make sure that is us.”

With Armagh sure to continue in the same positive manner that has borne so much fruit for them this season, you can expect plenty of goals from this encounter.

Institute are another team with plenty of attacking prowess – even if it has caused them the odd problem in defence.

Key added: “We try to play an expansive game, and though it can leave us open at the back, we have scored most goals. Up to last week, we had scored 89 in all competitions.

“We’ll look to keep scoring in this competition too. Last year’s final was a great occasion, and the players have fond memories of it, so I have no doubt they’ll do everything they can to get there again this year.”

Armagh manager Marty Rice has reason to be confident too, despite the quality of the team they are due to face.

Aside from those outstanding cup displays, they also hold all the cards when it comes to their own title challenge. The 3G surface will suit the Holm Park outfit, who have shown how dangerous they are in such surroundings, having managed almost a year unbeaten at home.

That illustrious 11-month record came to a sudden end last Friday, however, when derby rivals Annagh United toppled them 3-2 in the Mid Ulster Cup semi-final.

Rice is doing his best to remain balanced in his hindsight of the defeat, but on the positive side, it is helped focus his and his players’ minds on the next semi-final task ahead.

He said: “It is going to be a difficult one. When we play teams in Championship One and the Premier League, the test is always to see if we can compete at that level, and so far we’ve passed every test.

“Of course it was disappointing to lose a record like that, but you have to be a realist, and say that it’s impossible to keep it going forever. The boys deserve a lot of credit for keeping that going as long as they did.

“The league has always been our priority, so the way I see it, we have nine cup finals left now. Hopefully we can get a result against Institute and make it ten.”    

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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