Linfield expecting a tough tussle with Donegal Celtic
It's perhaps a measure of how far football has come here that when Linfield were pulled out of the hat alongside Donegal Celtic in the fifth round of the JJB Sports Irish Cup, that on pitch matters were the only thing on the agenda.
The Blues are now no strangers to Celtic’s west Belfast home having played there a few times during the Hoops two seasons in the top flight and they will be back at Suffolk Road next month for what was the tie of the round in yesterday’s draw at the Baby Grand in Belfast.
And while normalisation may not have reached the province entirely on the political front, it has thankfully made it’s way into footballing circles with Linfield chairman Jim Kerr waxing lyrical about the close relationship the two sides have built up over the past number of years.
And for Blues defender Kris Lindsay, there was no talk of security issues — he was more concerned with how difficult a task he and his team mates have been given in their quest for major honours this season.
“Donegal Celtic is a tough place to go to, especially for ourselves,” he said. “They are doing well in the Championship, they are up near the top and (manager) Packie McAllister will have them well organised.
“They are a big strong side and work hard but they also play some nice football on the big open pitch of theirs so, yes, it’s an extremely tough draw but you have to beat what’s put in front of you and we will have to be right up for it.
“We have to get our heads right and if we play the way we can play then we should go through.”
Lindsay added that it could be a blessing to play against tougher opponents, so as to counter any complacency.
“No matter what anybody says, if you draw a team from the lower divisions, in the Amateur League or something like that as much as you try and get your head right, complacency can set in.
“But we know what Donegal Celtic are like so we know that we are going to have to be at our best if we want to go through.”
Yesterday’s draw will have brought much cheer to those involved at Sport & Leisure and Omagh United.
Those two sides will meet on Saturday at Inver Park for the right to play Carling Premiership champions Glentoran at the Oval.
Sport & Leisure are currently fifth in Championship 2 while Omagh United, under the stewardship of former Omagh Town and Newry City boss Roy McCreaddie — no stranger to going head-to-head with the Glens — are fifth in Intermediate A of the Mid-Ulster League.
There will be at least one Amateur League team in the draw for the sixth round after Bryansburn Rangers — the lowest ranked team left in the competition, plying their trade in Division 1B coming out of the hat with 1A leaders Nortel.
Amateur League Premier side Islandmagee might also fancy their chances of causing a shock as they face Ballyclare Comrades at Dixon Park.
Holders Crusaders will begin their defence at home to Bangor while beaten finalists Cliftonville travel to Lisburn Distillery.