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Glentoran relying on Irish Cup spark to banish season's pain

By Graham Luney

Published 05/02/2016

Glentoran striker Curtis Allen hopes to fire his side into another Irish Cup final following their 2015 heroics
Glentoran striker Curtis Allen hopes to fire his side into another Irish Cup final following their 2015 heroics

Curtis Allen has admitted Glentoran's form this season has at times been "embarrassing" but he hopes the magic of the Irish Cup can banish their pain.

The Glens may be basking in the glory of two Irish Cups in three seasons but they don't have the resources to manufacture a title challenge.

Lying a disappointing sixth in the Danske Bank Premiership table, Alan Kernaghan's men face a fight to remain amongst the big hitters when the league splits next month.

The battle for European places is also hotting up with an end of season play-off offering teams another shot at continental action but the Irish Cup winners will feature in the Europa League and pocket a large cheque worth at least £154,000.

While their league form has been worrying, sinking to new depths when basement side Warrenpoint Town thumped them 4-0 at The Oval, as Irish Cup holders they have a proud recent record in this famous tournament to maintain.

Tomorrow's battle on Mersey Street sees the 2013 and 2015 winners come up against the 2014 victors as Glens old boy Gary Hamilton brings his dangerous Lurgan Blues side to east-Belfast.

It's a titanic battle and The Oval faithful, who have experienced a sinking feeling too often this campaign, are in need of a lift.

Striker Allen is keen to leave choppy waters behind but admits his side need to discover fresh inspiration.

"At times we have been embarrassing this season and there's no hiding away from that fact," said the former Linfield and Coleraine hitman. "The players have felt embarrassed and I'm sure the fans feel the same.

"There's a determination to turn things around and this match is a great opportunity to lift some of the gloom and feel better about ourselves.

"People will not fancy us to win as Glenavon are in great form but we are at home and should be confident of winning the game as we have already beaten them 2-0 at The Oval this season.

"Going forward, we are confident we can score goals but we've got to defend better and rally as a team. Our form has been disappointing and frustrating because we know what we are capable of and we have let ourselves down.

"We have been giving away far too many silly goals and while we know we can score goals, we won't achieve anything if we keep conceding.

"When things click we can feel like we are the best team in the league but the Crusaders game summed up our season when we went 2-0 ahead and didn't do what we needed to do to see the job through but I've no doubt if we can get a few more clean sheets we will move in the right direction."

Last season's Irish Cup final, in which the Glens edged out Portadown 1-0, may have been played in horrible conditions but it remains a sweet memory for Allen and his pals.

"The Irish Cup win last season is right up there in terms of my career highlights because my experiences with Linfield in the competition were quite sour and it was special to score the winner against Crusaders in the semi-final and be part of the final," added the 27-year-old.

"To win the trophy at The Oval was special and it was a fantastic day despite the horrible weather! It was a wonderful achievement by everyone and it gives you an unbelievable feeling.

"It also helps the club financially and you need to tick that box to compete with the other teams in the league."

Allen is also keen to praise his former skipper Elliott Morris, who - if fit - will make his 600th appearance for the Glens tomorrow.

"It would be an amazing achievement for anyone to reach 600 games in their club career, never mind with just one club," added Allen.

"To still be the club's No.1 after so many years is incredible. Elliott is a great guy and has so much experience now.

"He also has that drive and will to be successful which has contributed to the club's success. He deserves all the praise that has been coming his way."

There will be a round of applause in the 10th minute of the contest in tribute to former Glenavon striker Mark Farren, who lost his brave battle with cancer this week.

Allen said: "I didn't know Mark very well but it's such a tragic story and it will be a very emotional day. You never want to hear about anything like that in life but sadly, we know it happens."

TENNENT'S IRISH CUP ROUND 6 (kick-off 3pm)

Carrick Rangers v Crumlin Star

Cliftonville v Sport & Leisure Swifts

Dungannon Swifts v Crusaders

Glentoran v Glenavon

Linfield v Armagh City

Loughgall v PSNI (1.30pm)

Lurgan Celtic v Knockbreda (1.30pm)

Portadown v Coleraine

Irish Cup fixtures

Belfast Telegraph

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