Intermediate Cup: Armagh happy to be the underdogs
Armagh City manager Marty Rice believes his side will be the one everybody wants to meet when it comes to the draw for the Intermediate Cup semi-final.
The Holm Park club booked their place in the last four with a 3-1 victory over Ballyclare Comrades to ensure they are the only Championship Two representatives in a competition largely dominated by the division above.
With Bangor, Institute and Knockbreda all lying in wait, there are no easy draws for Rice’s men, and he knows well it will take everything they have got in order to reach the final.
The Armagh boss joked: “Our vice-chairman Aidan Murphy is the former chairman of the Intermediate Cup, and will be at the draw on Tuesday night… I’ve told him there are no favours he can do us.
“It is a strong line-up, and if we want to win the competition, we are going to have to do it the hard way. I am sure if those other remaining clubs had a preference of who to draw, they would pick us.
“But we have had a good season so far, and we want that to continue. We have already won the Bob Radcliffe Cup, are in the semi-final of the Mid Ulster Cup, we’re in the hunt for the league title, and now there is this.
“There are some very big games ahead for us, but to us, the main focus is on the two league games we have coming up, starting with Ballymoney on Saturday and Queen’s the following Tuesday.”
Rice revealed he has been informed by senior figures within the club that it is only the second time they have reached the last four of the competition, but he is determined to go even further this time around.
And while there is clearly no need for further motivation, it could easily be found by looking back to last season’s defeat by Ards Rangers at the fourth round hurdle last season.
Rice recalled: “We were 2-0 up at half time, and ended up losing 3-2 in extra time. They went all the way to the final and lost narrowly to Institute… that could have been us.
“It is a massive achievement to have even got to this stage. The Intermediate Cup is a notoriously difficult competition to win – there are a lot of games to be played, and you can often end up in some weird and wonderful places.
“You want to stay in the cup competitions as long as possible, and this one is no different for us.”
Despite the seemingly convincing scoreline at the weekend, the City boss stressed that appearances can be deceptive.
Stephen Murray appeared to have given Armagh the perfect platform for an insurmountable lead, with two goals in the first 15 minutes, but a Ballyclare penalty before half time reduced the deficit.
However, Kevin Keegan restored the two-goal cushion with a fine lob over the keeper two minutes in the second half, and it is they who are in Tuesday night’s draw.
Rice added: “It was an uncomfortable win in a difficult game. We played within ourselves, sat back and invited Ballyclare onto us.
“But we are through to the semi-final now, so we will just concentrate on what’s ahead of us.”
Saturday’s Intermediate Cup quarter-final results: Ballyclare Comrades 1 Armagh City 3, Ballymoney United 1 Bangor 2, Institute 5 Coagh United 4, Tobermore United 1 Knockbreda 2.