Wellington look to show Premier class in Clarence clash with Malachians
Wellington Rec manager Stephen Donald admits he is looking forward to his side pitting their wits against a Premier Division outfit for the first time this season.
This Saturday’s Clarence Cup second round visit to Malachians also represents the first time Donald has faced a top flight side since leaving fellow Premier club Islandmagee at the end of the previous campaign.
And while Wellington are in a promising position - third in Division 1B at the halfway stage of the season – Donald sees nothing but positives in progressing in an end-of-season tournament that some managers view as a distraction on their league aspirations.
He told The Park: “I don’t know if we will get promoted this season – it may take a couple of seasons before we get everything how we want it here – so I’d like to get ourselves a cup run.
“There are teams that don’t take the Clarence Cup that seriously, so I would like to think if we can get through this round, we can go a good bit further.”
Wellington have already shown they can mix it in the cups with teams ranked higher than them. An impressive Irish Cup campaign saw them narrowly miss out on a coveted fifth round spot, after pushing this season’s Steel & Sons Cup winners Harland & Wolff Welders all the way in round four.
Looking back to last month’s tie, Donald recalled: “We were going there apprehensive because they are a top Championship side and had beaten the Glens in the County Antrim Shield. Yet we went 1-0 up and had a chance for 2-0.
“If they hadn’t scored their third to make it 3-1 before half time, it could have worked out differently, because we scored in the second half and they didn’t.
“I suppose in the end, there were mixed feelings about how that day went for us. It was good to see us play that well against that sort of opposition, but there was also a bit of a thought about what could have been. ”
If Donald overestimated the challenge faced against one of Championship One’s leading sides, arguably the opposite could be said for his approach to what Wellington were up against in the Amateur League’s third tier this season.
He said: “It is a really competitive league – I didn’t realise it was just as competitive. Every game is like a cup final… you can see that if you look at our wins, there are a lot of 3-2s, 5-3s, and 5-4s in there – all hard-fought wins. The only comfortable win for us was the 3-0 at home to Ballywalter Rec on the first weekend.
“People are going to laugh at this, but there are teams in 1B who would easily hold their own in the Premier Division. Ballynahinch and Newcastle definitely would. ”
The latter of those two teams dealt Wellington their latest league defeat – another narrow 3-2 last weekend. However, this side, featuring a healthy number of former top flight players, will be looking to show their premier class against a Malachians team currently hovering marginally above the relegation zone of amateur football’s top division.