Students cram in a hectic week ahead of huge Irish Cup clash
Nobody can accuse the current crop of Queen's University players of being lazy. The Students have the daunting prospect of competing in the Collingwood Cup the week before they play Bangor in the Irish Cup quarter-finals.
Queen's travel down to Dublin on Tuesday to participate in the traditional Varsity tournament, before returning to face Bangor at The Dub on Saturday.
Although the Collingwood squad and the Championship have different registration requirements, eight of the mid-week team will be in Peter Thompson's squad for Saturday's Irish Cup tie.
Manager Thompson admits it isn't an ideal situation.
“It's a problem for us because five or six of our likely starters against Bangor on Saturday are away in Dublin for the Collingwood. In theory they could play four games in four days, ahead of the Irish Cup match which obviously isn't ideal as it's a draining competition, but that's life.
“I've told Ryan Prentice, the manager of the Collingwood side, to play his full team for as long as they're in the main tournament as it's a prestigious competition, however if they're knocked out and drop into the plate there will be a few changes.”
Queen's journey to the last eight of the Irish Cup has been remarkable, but Thompson has been made aware the class of 2014 haven't set any records yet.
“A few of the old guard have informed me that in 1972 Queen's lost to Derry City in the quarter-final, so we haven't made history just yet.
“To be honest, if you'd said to me at the start of the season that we'd be in the quarter-finals of the Irish Cup and in the running for promotion, I'd have laughed at you.
“The whole experience has been great. We're enjoying the media attention as it gives us the opportunity to get the name of the club out there.”
Queen's face Championship One side Bangor at The Dub. Although the Seasiders aren't a Premiership side, Thompson holds them in high regard.
“For me, Bangor are the best side outside the Premiership. I was at the cup replay on Monday night and they deserved to beat Warrenpoint, who haven't let themselves down in the top flight.
“Bangor are solid all over the pitch and they will be formidable opponents. We were the underdogs against Limavady United and Lisburn Distillery, but we always knew we had a chance.
“Bangor are a different matter. Along with Carrick Rangers, Dundela and Institute, I think they're a step above the rest of the Championship clubs at the moment.”
Thompson was keen to point out this Queen's transformation from B Division whipping boys to Irish Cup quarter-finalists has been the result of years of hard work. After a number of years at Newforge, Queen's are now back at their traditional ground of The Dub, which boosts some of the best facilities in the Championship.
“This hasn't just happened over night. This is a process that started ten years ago when we re-entered the Irish League after a number of years in the Intermediate League, which we call our wilderness years.
“When we re-joined the Irish League we were whipping boys, regularly finishing in the bottom two. It took a while but we've got our house in order and now we've got a competitive team and a great ground.
“The idea of playing an Irish Cup quarter-final at The Dub ten years ago would have been crazy. Now that's about to happen, and a lot of credit must go to our chairman Denis Clarke.”
Queen's big week starts tomorrow when they mid-week team take on Limerick in Dublin. With two prestigious tournaments to play for, who knows who their week might end.
Belfast Telegraph Digital