Belfast Telegraph

Tandragee Rovers gaffer Walker gearing up for second Loughgall clash

By Martin Mawhinney

Tandragee Rovers will doubtless have their sights set on a first Mid Ulster Intermediate A title in four years, but that won’t stop them dreaming of a glamour tie in the fifth round of the Irish Cup.

The only thing standing in their way is this Saturday’s forthcoming fourth round clash with Loughgall. And rest assured, all at Tandragee know that is no mean feat, having fallen to a 5-2 defeat against the same opposition in the Mid Ulster Cup earlier this season.

The men in tangerine gave the Belfast Telegraph outfit a tough test in that second round encounter last time out, but the question is, will that work in their favour or against them?

Tandragee boss Scott Walker is non-committal. “It’s probably a bit of both. It was only a couple of weeks ago, and for 55 minutes, we were 2-1 up. Then I brought a couple of 16-year-olds, which was a great experience for them, though we did run out of legs.

“The main thing was that we didn’t disgrace ourselves. It will be a big ask, and now they’ll know what we can do, but it works both ways, and we’ll have a good idea what to expect of them now, too.

“They are a quality team, quick up front and strong all over the pitch. Brian (Adair, Loughgall manager) has been having a bit of an up and down season, they haven’t been consistent, so who knows what can happen? We just have to keep it tight for the first 15 or 20 minutes.”

This is the first time the Madden Road side have made it to this stage of the competition in a number of years, and naturally, thoughts have been wandering to potential opponents in the next round.

However, Walker is keen that his players stay focussed on the task in hand.

He continued: “You’d always like to get the likes of Portadown, Linfield or Glentoran in the next round, but we aren’t looking that far ahead. We’ll have to be at our best if we want to have a chance against Loughgall.”

Not that focus has been a major issue for Walker’s men. At present, they fifth third in the table, with only five games played, three games off leaders Ballymacash Rangers and four behind second-placed Camlough Rovers.

A large reason for this has been their strength in the variety of cup competitions they have entered. Runs in the Mid Ulster Cup, the Bob Radcliffe Cup, as well as their ongoing progress in the Premier Cup and in the Marshall Cup, are likely to test the resolve of any squad.

But Walker is satisfied Tandragee have the tools, not only to cope, but to succeed.

He said: “I think we have a good squad of about 17 or 18 players this season, so hopefully the cup runs won’t have an effect. To be fair, I feel I have been using the squad well enough so far.

“I don’t like that word ‘rotation,’ but at least I know that I have the strength in depth to freshen things up if I need to.”

Walker has been a good servant on the field, and having played in Tandragee sides that have finished in the runners-up place for each of the last three seasons, he has accepted that he may be well-placed to guide his club to glory from a position of the pitch.

He admitted: “My playing career is pretty much over. I am getting used to the idea of watching from the sidelines now. You do learn a lot on the

“I am enjoying it now, and have good help from Scott McMillan and Sam Matchett.

“It’s going to be tight, with Camlough, Ballymacash and St Mary’s ahead of us, but with hard work, we can be there or thereabouts.”

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