Albert Foundry out to repeat Steel heroics in Intermediate Cup
If anyone knows the value of a good cup run this season, it’s Albert Foundry. And their manager Colin McIlwaine believes that further progression in the Intermediate Cup will only help their prospects in the Amateur League Premier Division title race.
The Paisley Park men, who are the last NAFL club left in the competition, take on Championship One club Ballyclare Comrades in the quarter-final this Saturday (Dixon Park, Ballyclare, 2pm) and McIlwaine wants Foundry to overcome the odds as they have so often this season.
To already have progressed as far as they have in a campaign where they also finished runners-up in the Steel & Sons Cup is a huge achievement in itself, but there are some who may argue that it will all have been in vain without any silverware to show for their endeavours.
Ards Rangers were one such club, who having made it all the way to the final in 2013, finished some way behind in the league, 21 points off winners Newington in fact, in fifth place.
That spot is currently occupied by Foundry, but with just eight points separating them from leaders and neighbours Shankill United with a useful four games in hand, McIlwaine has a glass-half-full mentality when it comes to his team adding more games to their already busy schedule.
He said: “Everybody has their own opinion on the cups, but I want to be successful. Cup runs are good for everyone.
“People will say that the Intermediate Cup is one of those competitions that is low on their priority list because it is so hard to win - it adds a lot of games to your season if you are still in it. But I would much rather have that than having our season over at this stage.
“We are not on our own. There are a lot of teams who have plenty of games to play… I’m not looking for any sympathy.
“Everyone knows how big a deal it was for us in getting to the Steel & Sons Cup final, and even though we didn’t win it, I wouldn’t swap it for the world.”
McIlwaine admitted his knowledge on Foundry’s forthcoming opponents is somewhat limited, but he knows that the Comrades will not underestimate his side.
He continued: “Ballyclare seem to be in a position where they could get sucked into a relegation battle, but they are a Championship side and because of that, we will respect them as the favourites.
“I’m sure they will respect us too, because every year, Amateur League clubs have been proving that they are more than capable of beating teams at that level.
“It is a massive ask to go and win this competition, when you have teams like Ards and Larne still in there - if you want to win it, you are going to have to go on and win it the hard way. But no-one can say now that the Amateur League is easy or isn’t a high standard.”
McIlwaine believes it will also be tough to pick a winner from the chasing pack in this season’s title race.
He added: “It’s only a fool who thinks they can predict a winner. Each team has their pros and cons, but one thing we have in our favour is the experience of being in the mix, season in, season out.
“We need to be a bit lucky on the injuries side, and if we can keep everyone fit, then fingers crossed. I just want the boys to do themselves proud and end the season on a high.”