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Stuart King dreaming of Irish Cup joy with Carrick Rangers, 20 years on from playing success

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Stuart King hoping to celebrate a mini upset as Carrick boss by beating Cliftonville in the Irish Cup on Saturday

Stuart King hoping to celebrate a mini upset as Carrick boss by beating Cliftonville in the Irish Cup on Saturday

The history-making Carrick Rangers team who beat Linfield in the 1976 Irish Cup final

The history-making Carrick Rangers team who beat Linfield in the 1976 Irish Cup final

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Stuart King hoping to celebrate a mini upset as Carrick boss by beating Cliftonville in the Irish Cup on Saturday

Stuart King said it would be a “dream come true” to have another shot at Irish Cup glory.

It is 20 years since he was part of the Linfield side that beat Portadown to lift the famous old trophy.

Now two decades on, he is hoping the competition can deliver more special memories - this time as manager of Carrick Rangers.

The Co Antrim side host Cliftonville in the last 16 this weekend, with the winners just two games from the final.

For King, the chance to repeat history is growing tantalisingly closer.

“It was the first trophy I won when I came home, so it holds really special memories,” he said.

“To win it as a player, and do the same as a manager - it’s what dreams are made of.

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“I want to win things. I am not here just to do okay, I am here to win trophies and try and do the best I can, and I’m learning very quickly.

“It’s been good so far - but it’s not finished yet.”

Carrick famously lifted the Irish Cup in 1976 - one of the competition’s all-time great shocks - and were beaten finalists in 1984 and 1995.

And while they will be underdogs against eight-times winners Cliftonville, King feels they can pull off a minor upset.

He was encouraged by their performance against Dungannon last weekend, even though they finished on the end of a 3-2 defeat.

“There is no reason why we shouldn’t approach Saturday’s tie with confidence,” he added.

“The cup is massive to this football club - it is an opportunity to get into Europe.

“Saturday is a one-off game and on our day we are as good as anyone - I know we are - so why not go and give it our best shot?

“We need to go and do exactly what we did against Dungannon, but just be a bit more defensively minded when Cliftonville are playing on the counter.

“The Dungannon result was disappointing, of course, but I have to take the positives because our performance was really, really good.”

Carrick sit 10th in the league and, with relegation fears easing, can turn their focus to the cup.

After a great start to the season, they hit a six-game losing run at the end of last year, but their form has improved in recent weeks.

King added: “People have said we have been on a bad run, but we went to Crusaders and drew 0-0, and we were 2-0 up against Glenavon with two minutes to go, and draw 2-2, and then we beat Ballymena. We also had a win in the Irish Cup.

“People say it has been disappointing, but I think it’s progress.

“You can take it whatever way you want, but I am a positive person.

“Saturday was a really bad result, but overall I thought our play was great.”

Their opponents Cliftonville have not lifted the Irish Cup since 1979, losing four finals since, most recently in 2018.


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