Glentoran boss Alan McDonald has an almighty headache going into tomorrow’s JJB Sports Premiership clash at Newry City — but it’s one he’s happy to bear.
Spirits have been high at the Oval this week after an emphatic 6-1 victory over Ballymena United in the Co Antrim Shield, and it was the fact that the performance came from a ‘weakened’ side that has raised a smile in east Belfast.
However, McDonald must now mull over his team selection for the league clash by the border.
It was by far the best display of the season by the Glens who have laboured so far — yet remain unbeaten — and the former Northern Ireland captain could be forgiven for sticking with his younger stars.
And one, not so young, certainly made his case for a regular starting spot having made cameo appearances for the most part of this campaign.
Dean Fitzgerald was made captain on Tuesday night and turned in a true display of leadership in the middle of the park — a position where Daryl Fordyce and Shane McCabe have seemingly nailed down their place.
But according to McDonald, that isn’t the case at all.
“I can’t speak highly enough of Dean Fitzgerald,” said McDonald.
“He is a great player to have around, he’s bubbly and enthusiastic and he’s been super ever since I came to the club.
“He went through a bit of a bad spell over Christmas last year but we had a chat over pre-season and since then he has been outstanding.
“Now what he has done is put Daryl Fordyce and Shane McCabe under pressure.”
McDonald added: “No one is untouchable. If someone is playing better than the player who is in the side then they will be given their chance.”
While McDonald claims that confidence hasn’t been a problem in the Glens’ somewhat uninspiring start to the season, he does admit that the midweek victory has provided a massive boost going into tomorrow’s game with Gerry Flynn’s side.
And it is the young guns who have provided that inspiration.
“Tuesday night was a fabulous performance and it shows what this squad is really capable of,” he said. “It’s a shot in the arm for us and what it has also done is asked questions in certain positions — people have been put under pressure.
“The one thing I constantly say is that I don’t pick the team, the players pick the team with their own performances and certainly the performance on Tuesday gave me plenty to think about.”
l A NUmber of Setanta Sports Cup fixtures have been rescheduled.
Derry City’s game with Linfield, originally set for Tuesday, September 23, will now be played on October 6 (8.05pm). Glentoran’s visit of St. Pat’s, originally scheduled to take place on September 23, is also on October 6.
The Setanta Cup final will now be played on November 1.
Meanwhile, Linfield’s JJB Sports Premiership match with Lisburn Distillery, called off due to the referees’ strike will be played on Tuesday September 23 (7.45pm) and Glentoran and Ballymena United have agreed to play on the same night, at the Oval (7.45pm).