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Millar is challenging Glenavon to use Irish Cup success as a springboard to greater things

By Graham Luney

Published 06/08/2016

Raising the bar: Paul Millar (right) and Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton are hoping to have the last laugh at the end of the league season
Raising the bar: Paul Millar (right) and Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton are hoping to have the last laugh at the end of the league season

Irish Cup kings Glenavon would love to get their hands on the biggest prize - the Gibson Cup - and many observers are expecting the Lurgan Blues to be in the title mix come April.

The addition of Paddy McCourt has fuelled the belief that Gary Hamilton's men can reach the promised land.

While there will be pressure on Crusaders and Linfield to push for top spot, the mid-Ulster men will prefer to stay under the radar and their own consistency will determine their fate.

Assistant boss Paul Millar feels the club should be rightly proud of two Irish Cup triumphs in three years and its European adventures but it's never easy to stay among the elite group of teams in the Danske Bank Premiership's top four.

"We are ready to go again," said Millar. "With the talent that exists in the Irish League now, the first thing we say to the players before they go out is that if they don't match other teams for effort they will lose.

"Teams made it very difficult for us last season. We finished third but you always have to believe you can do better. Otherwise there is no point in playing. It was a very competitive league and now with the added quality of the new signings coming in it's going to be even tougher.

"The teams finished where they deserved to finish last season and Crusaders were deserved winners. Cliftonville have strengthened and David Healy has brought strong players to Linfield, so we know we must improve our own standards."

Glenavon's Charity Shield hero Jordan Jenkins is the latest in a long line of footballers to emerge from Ashfield Boys' High, an east Belfast school that has produced three Northern Ireland managers and nine internationals as well as a host of Irish League legends.

The past internationals are Ronnie Briggs, Martin Harvey, Sammy McMillan, Sammy McIlroy, David McCreery, Stuart Elliott, Andy Kirk, Warren Feeney and Bryan Hamilton.

Harvey, McIlroy and Hamilton also managed their country while Irish League legends include Tommy and Paul Leeman, Justin McBride, Raymond Morrison and Alan Harrison.

Josh Robinson, Dee McMaster and Michael Dougherty are also Ashfield old boys while current students Ethan Warnock (Everton) and Ross Ferguson (Crusaders) are impressing along with Northern Ireland prospects Jamie Glover, Salu Jalu, Dylan Galloway and Josh Archer.

Ashfield coach John Spence said: "Jordan is brave and a star in the making. The school is very proud of the number of students who enjoyed successful careers, some at the highest level.

"Glenavon, like a number of clubs, are on the lookout for emerging talent and Gary (Hamilton) would have contacts at schools while Paul (Millar) has good connections with clubs like Ridgeway. There's a pool of talent at the Belfast schools and Irish League clubs must keep looking for the best prospects."

Danske Bank Premiership squads are limited to 20 players over the age of 21, allowing young players a chance to shine.

Belfast Telegraph

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