David Healy relishing duel with pal Gerard Lyttle as Linfield face Cliftonville in County Antrim Shield
Two good pals will become enemies tonight when David Healy and Gerard Lyttle continue their hunt for a first ever trophy as manager.
Linfield and Cliftonville clash at Windsor Park in a County Antrim Shield quarter-final tonight, a contest which sees two of the Irish League's brightest young managers go to war against one another for the first time.
Both men have been friends since emerging through the Northern Ireland youth ranks and their names are now added to the growing list of young Irish League bosses in their 30s brave enough to enter the unforgiving world of football management.
New Linfield manager Healy was offered an early reminder of how demanding the Blues faithful are when his side fought back to earn a 1-1 draw against Carrick Rangers on Saturday.
Lyttle, Cliftonville's choice to build on the impressive work of Tommy Breslin, knows the Red Army are now constantly dreaming of trophy success and continental action.
"That's the way it should be," said the former Celtic youngster.
Warren Feeney was unable to grasp silverware during his season in charge of the Blues and Northern Ireland legend Healy, who watched his side crash out of the League Cup to Ballinamallard United, is desperate to unlock the Windsor Park trophy cabinet again.
Shield holders Cliftonville, however, are a formidable force under Lyttle and they will relish the chance to impress at the rapidly changing international venue.
"I know Gerard well and I have a lot of respect for him," said Healy. "We played together in the Under-19s and Under-21s and he texted me when I got the job so I'm looking forward to seeing him again but it's a big occasion for both teams and I'm sure our players will be ready to do a job and deliver.
"Teams will be difficult to break down at Windsor Park but our level of performance and desire to win a game has to be right.
"They (Cliftonville) are in a good run of form under the new manager and they are a top side.
"I've watched them play, just as I did with Carrick, and this is a good game to get ourselves back on the road I want this club to be on."
Lyttle welcomed Healy's appointment as Linfield boss even though he is out to shoot him down tonight.
"David is respected in Northern Ireland and further afield and that can only raise the profile of our league and keep us on the map," said Lyttle. "It's great to see these young managers and well known personalities coming on board and long may it continue."
One player Lyttle's side will need to keep an eye on is midfielder Aaron Burns, who slotted in his 10th goal of the season to snatch a point against Carrick.
Healy added: "Aaron is a fantastic footballer and I don't want his standards to go up and down, I want to see consistency from him and I think he was a little below par against Carrick but he still had the ability and quality to pop up with a vital goal for us."
In the other Shield last-eight clashes tonight, Crusaders host Ballymena United while Carrick Rangers entertain H&W Welders and Ards take on Larne at the Bangor Fuels Arena.