Immaculata set sights on historic Irish Cup fifth round upset over Cliftonville
As all eyes fix on the Irish Cup’s traditional round of the giant-killer, Immaculata manager Kevin Lawlor has one simple question this year - “Why not us?”
The fifth round is the stage that gives amateur teams the opportunity to pit their wits against their professional and semi-professional counterparts, and the Mac have been paired with back-to-back 2013 and 2014 Danske Bank Premiership winners Cliftonville.
For many at the Mac’s level, the occasion is the prize in itself. But not for Lawlor.
He told The Park: “People are stopping me in the street and congratulating me for getting to play Cliftonville in the Irish Cup, but I don’t know what for. It’s just another game. I’m expecting to beat them… but that’s just me.
“If we beat them it would be history for our club, but it wouldn’t be the be-all-and-end-all. We are all about winning trophies, we aren’t out to make up the numbers or to be happy at finishing second.
“We go out to win every competition we are in, and that goes for the Irish Cup too.”
Such lofty ambitions are fitting for a club who have made such a healthy habit of lifting silverware each season.
Immaculata’s steady rise up through the junior and intermediate ranks has caught the attention of the wider footballing public, and now Lawlor believes that the surprise element could well have been lost for good.
He said: “I think most people have heard of us now… I don’t think they will underestimate us. It all depends what they are like on the day. If they aren’t on the top of their game and we are, then we’ll have a chance. All the pressure is on them - if they beat us 3 or 4 nil, we’ll just get on with the rest of our season.
“Whatever happens, this will be good for us financially. We struggle, year-on-year, to keep the club going, so you would think a 0-0 draw would suit us. But that’s not our way - I want us to win.”
The bookmakers' odds will show us that an upset is highly unlikely, but recent history has also shown us that nothing can be ruled out altogether. And Lawlor points to such examples to strengthen his case that Immaculata could be the next so-called ‘minnows’ to make the headlines.
The Mac boss stated: “Look at Killyleagh… they made it to the semi-finals of the Irish Cup not so long ago. Newington YC beating Glentoran showed that an Amateur League team can beat an Irish League team, so why not us?
“We have real quality in our side - the likes of Colm O’Riordan, Sean McGovern, Tony Heagney have all been offered to play at a much higher level, but they have turned it down, and that says a lot about our club.”
After advancing past Dundela in the fourth round, Lawlor told The Park that he wanted Immaculata to draw a team he felt his side could beat in round five, but as this Saturday’s big cup clash with the Reds gets ever closer, it’s clear he feels this is a match he feels they can win.
If they do, it will represent yet another milestone in the journey of a club that shows no sign of stopping.
Belfast Telegraph Digital