Bring it on! That’s the emphatic cry from Glentoran skipper Paul Leeman as he prepares to lead the east Belfast men to Drogheda tonight for their Setanta Sports Cup semi-final with United.
The Glens are, amazingly, just one step away from the promised land of an All-Ireland final, thanks to victory over St Pat’s last Monday and a hammering of Linfield a fortnight previous.
Had you made that prediction two weeks ago it would have provoked more laughs than Peter Kay.
However, the only ones with anything to smile about at the minute are of a Glentoran persuasion and they travel south this evening (8.05pm, live on Setanta Sports Ireland) as the JJB Sports Premiership’s sole representatives.
“It’s unchartered territory for us, we haven’t been here before,” said Leeman. “It’s a semi-final and semi-finals are all about winners — you want to get to the final and that’s as big an incentive as you need.
“To be fair there was no real pressure on us last week because we weren’t expected to qualify but now we are through there is a wee bit of pressure now and there’s a big prize at the end of it for everybody.
“We are looking forward to it because a couple of weeks ago people had written us off but we know it’s going to be tough.
“We need to play better than what we did (against Institute on Saturday) which we are capable of doing as we showed last week, so bring it on!”
Ironically if Glentoran are looking for inspiration, they don’t have to look very far.
Fierce rivals Linfield have been there and won it while the rest of the Irish League have struggled in the competition.
Now Leeman wants the Glens to be Northern Ireland’s domestic standard bearers.
“To be fair Linfield have been flying the flag for the Irish League, no other teams have done it in the Setanta so it is nice for us to be there representing the league and it would be great to go a step further to the final,” he said.
“This team is certainly capable of doing it if we are all on top of our game — we’ll prepare well and give ourselves every chance.
“The last three years Linfield have dominated — they have done well in the Setanta and we haven’t so we want to emulate them.
“Apart from Linfield it has been a bit of a non-event for Irish League teams. Maybe that’s the reason why the fans haven’t got behind it as much.
“I’m delighted we’re there because we’ll see (tonight) because we’ll take a sell-out crowd to Drogheda, we’ve sold all our tickets as far as I am aware and hopefully the fans can drive us on.
“We want to win it and I personally would love to win it because it is a trophy that I have never won so the hunger is there for it.
“Drogheda have the advantage of full-time training but we didn’t see the difference on Monday night and if we prepare well then there is no reason why we can’t do well and look forward to the final.”