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Larne boss David McAlinden hopes a flavour of the big time will leave his side craving more

Co Antrim Shield

By Graham Luney

Published 20/09/2016

Larne manager David McAlinden
Larne manager David McAlinden

Larne boss David McAlinden says his players will relish the opportunity to shoot down Crusaders in the Toals County Antrim Shield tonight.

Crues boss Stephen Baxter will shuffle his pack for the Inver Park showdown but the Championship side are still gearing up for a daunting challenge.

Larne's number one goal is to reach the promised land of the Danske Bank Premiership and compete against the big guns on a regular basis, and former Crues defender McAlinden hopes tonight's scrap whets his players' appetite for more big games.

"Stephen (Baxter) might shuffle his pack but his new pack is still probably capable of winning the league they play in, so it will be a difficult night for us, but hopefully we can enjoy it because this is the standard of opposition we want to play against on a regular basis," said McAlinden, who played on the Cliftonville team that achieved the club's first ever win in a European tie in 2007.

"There is no real pressure on us because our priority is to do well in the league and that's where our focus will be. Crusaders will feel they can win every competition they enter, but it's football and surprises happen. We will have a go at them and get a taste of playing against a top side, something which we want to become familiar with."

Crusaders' rise from the ashes of relegation in 2005 is well documented and McAlinden can remember their darkest hour.

"I played in the second leg of the relegation play-off for Glenavon when the Crues suffered relegation and look at where those two are now," he added. "They're inspiring other clubs. Stephen turned the Crues around and what they have achieved is testament to his qualities as a manager."

Belfast Telegraph

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