Donemana can end all-Ireland woe, insists Riddles
The first month of the season could not have gone any better for Donemana but tomorrow is their first major test in a competition they are desperate to do well in.
The cup specialists in the North West - they had six successive Senior Cup triumphs until defeat in last year's semi-final - have won just one of their last seven matches in the Irish Senior Cup and they want to put an end to that almost unbelievable record at Comber when they take on improving North Down.
Andrew Riddles is too modest to say that a new captain has made the difference at The Holm this year, but he admits he has "brought some discipline to the team and put a bit of fire in their bellies", adding: "We sat down before the season started and I asked them all what they wanted.
"Our attitude had to change, especially the night before big games, and so far, so good."
They have a 100 per cent record this year in every competition, and Andy McBrine has played only one game because of his Ireland commitments, but he returns tomorrow along with Gary McClintock and Riddles can finally field his strongest line-up.
"If we play to our potential we can beat any team in Ireland," insisted the captain, a statement few would disagree with, but he cannot explain their poor record in the all-Ireland cup.
"Derriaghy has been our only 'easy' draw since I came back (for his second spell at the club) and we lost that," he recalled. "We did beat Clontarf at their place a couple of years ago but then got drawn away to The Hills, and last year we lost at home to Merrion, another game we should have won."
And the days of travel sickness for Donemana are, Riddles believes, well behind them.
"I think we are now stronger away from home," he said. "To use four spinners at Donemana is not the easiest. The young boys also enjoy travelling so we're looking forward to going to North Down."
The Comber side are even more desperate for an extended run in the Irish Cup. They have had only one semi-final appearance since 2000 and it is 24 years since the last of three wins.
With last year's semi-finalists receiving a bye into the second round, there are only 11 first-round matches, with the regionalised draw dividing the games into the three main provinces.
Carrickfergus, against YMCA, and CIYMS, who face North County for a third successive year in the first round, are the other NCU teams at home.
League champions Bready are one of the three North West sides at home, to Lisburn, while Coleraine host Civil Service North in the other NW v NCU clash.
Three North West sides have trips to Dublin, including North West Cup holders Brigade who face a tricky tie against Pembroke while Eglinton will face Irish internationals James Shannon and Simi Singh at Phoenix.
Tomorrow's fixtures (12.30pm): CIYMS v North County, Carrickfergus v YMCA, Instonians v Cork County, North Down v Donemana, Bready v Lisburn, Coleraine v Civil Service North, Glendermott v Rush, Malahide v Muckamore, Pembroke v Brigade, Phoenix v Eglinton, The Hills v Ballyspallen.