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Star can sparkle in cup after hard run in league, insists O'Neill

By David Kelly

Published 22/10/2016

Class act: Keelan Cairns has been impressive for Belfast Star this term
Class act: Keelan Cairns has been impressive for Belfast Star this term

Belfast Star coach Darren O'Neill believes his side are ready to get back to winning ways when they travel to face Moycullen in the first leg of their National Cup quarter-final.

O'Neill's men suffered their third consecutive defeat in the All Ireland Superleague last weekend but now have a golden opportunity to make the semi-finals of the Cup when they clash with a side who have an identical record in the league - one win and three defeats.

If Star are to take a lead into the second leg next month then they will have to do a good job defensively on Moycullen ace Paul Freeman, according to O'Neill who knows he still needs his men to rattle up more points.

"It's been good for the lads to be able to focus on the Cup this week and what an incentive they have to have a real shot at making the semi-finals for the first time in many years," said O'Neill.

"Of course, whatever the result it is only going to be half-time so we won't be getting carried away whatever the score is.

"But we're up against a side in the same position as ourselves and if we play to our best then we can get the win.

"We know it won't be easy because since they first came into the league a few years back, Moycullen have made big strides. They have some very good young players and in Paul Freeman a man who is a matchwinner. When I went to see them against Star last year that's exactly what happened. He ran the show so we know we have to deal with him.

"But we also need to convert more chances if we're going to get the win."

While Star have suffered three defeats on the bounce, O'Neill rightly insists that he has been very pleased with the contribution of Keelan Cairns, Conor Johnston and Paddy McGaharan. In particular, the consistency of Cairns has stood out.

"Keelan has found his feet early this season and he has been giving us the performances we always knew he could and there's more to come," added O'Neill.

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