Ballyclare look for derby upset to help Irish Cup progress
Saturday will be a great day for football in east Antrim, as Ballyclare Comrades and Carrick Rangers fight it out for a spot in the last eight of the Irish Cup at Dixon Park.
Both clubs have performed well in Championship One this season, but an Irish Cup Quarter Final would bring both prestige and revenue to the winning club.
Ballyclare Comrades boss Eddie Hill believes a victory on Saturday would give the whole club a lift.
“If our club could make it to the last eight of the Irish Cup it would be a massive achievement for us, particularly when you consider it was only a couple of years ago that we were relegated to Championship Two.
“Since then we've gained promotion, done well in Championship One and reached two Steel & Sons Cup semi-finals. An Irish Cup Quarter Final would be further testament to all the work that has been put in at Dixon Park.
“But it's a big ask as Carrick are flying at the moment. We will give it everything, and hopefully give a good account of ourselves.”
However, Hill is under no illusion. Gary Haveron's men will start as favourites.
“I'm looking forward to it, as it's a massive game for the club. We played Carrick earlier in the season and they beat us, so we know it's going to be a hard game. They've made a few a good signings and they're in good form at the moment.”
It's not just an important cup game, but also a local derby. Hill, who has been an Irish League for nearly 20 years, in no stranger to an east Antrim derby.
“Anybody who plays in a local derby should be up for it. It gives everyone an extra edge, and we generally get bigger crowds when two of the three clubs meet.
“I've played in 'big two' games and Ballymena v Coleraine derbies, and it's always an experience to look forward too. Hopefully there's a big crowd at the game.”
Ballyclare's Cup hopes received a blow last week when new signings Ryan Dunlop picked up a nasty injury in training.
Hill explained: “I've not done too much business during the window because I think if you make too many signings you can destabilise a squad. We've brought in two former Ballymena lads in George Young and Denver Gage, who should give us something extra.
“We'd also signed Ryan Dunlop from Newington, but he's broken his foot so we may not see him again this season.”
Putting the Irish Cup to one side, Hill would like to see his club pick up a few more wins in the Belfast Telegraph Championship One, before the season concludes.
“I'm pleased with how we've done so far but there a lot of games left and we can't afford to slack off. We want to secure as many points as possible so we can finish in mid-table, I think that would be a good finish for our first season back in Championship One.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital