Belfast Telegraph

Goal hero McNicholl confident Carrick will avoid drop

By David Mason

Goal hero Tiarnan McNicholl has boldly predicted that Carrick Rangers will ease away from the threat of relegation. The 21-year-old striker, on loan from Cliftonville, hit the winner against Glenavon in Tuesday night's League Cup semi-final at Mourneview Park to help the east Antrim side create a little piece of history.

It was McNicholl's third goal of the season - and one that took Carrick through to the final for the first time. They will face Ballymena United in the decider on February 18.

Although there were high fives afterwards, level-headed McNicholl insisted Aaron Callaghan's boys are now on a points mission to help them catapult up the Premiership table.

"Aaron has got us believing in ourselves," he said. "We believe we are going to win every game, whereas before we were thinking we could be beaten four or five in certain matches.

"We were leaking too many goals, but the boss has sorted that out. We are still in a dodgy league position, but the only way is up as far as we are concerned.

"We are a confident bunch. We will not be relegated, I am very confident of that."

It was McNicholl's piece of magic that downed Gary Hamilton's Lurgan Blues, who were big favourites to book a final slot. But Carrick were having none of it. McNicholl said: "It was a special moment to score the winner.

"I went straight to the fans because the win meant everything to them. I thought it was a great team performance. Big Paddy McNally and Mark Surgenor never put a foot wrong in defence. I don't think anyone could deny us the victory - we merited it."

McNicholl stressed that Callaghan has changed the landscape at the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena since his arrival two months ago.

He said: "To be honest, I never really heard of him before he came to Carrick. But once he took charge of his first training session, I knew he could do a job for us.

"Reaching a cup final is a big thing for everyone at Carrick. I believe we can win this cup."

It's back to league combat at the weekend, but as McNicholl is on loan from the Reds, he is ruled out of Saturday's clash.

He added: "I can't play because of the loan agreement, which I accept. It is disappointing. It will be a tough game, but we need every point we can get.

"Aaron has us believing - we fear no team in this league."

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