Belfast Telegraph

County Antrim Shield: Larne boss David McAlinden keen to relive joy of Shield triumph against Ballymena United

By Graham Luney

Some fans of the top Danske Bank Premiership clubs may ridicule the Toals County Antrim Shield but Larne boss David McAlinden will always have great affection for the glittering trophy.

The former Cliftonville defender only lifted one senior prize in his career and it was the Shield in 2007.

"I won the Shield as a Cliftonville player and it was my only senior trophy so it means a lot to me," said McAlinden, who was also part of the Reds' first ever European victory against FC Dinaburg of Latvia that year.

"We beat Distillery 2-1 at The Oval with Mark Holland scoring twice in the 2007 final.

"Whatever other people think of the Shield, it is a senior trophy and you always want to win silverware.

"It might as well be a Champions League semi-final in my eyes and we will be going into it hoping to make the final and reward the fans of this club who have endured some tough times but have remained fiercely loyal."

Now Larne boss, the former Crusaders and Carrick Rangers ace is hoping to mastermind the downfall of Ballymena United - weather permitting - in tonight's Shield semi-final at Inver Park (7.45pm).

Read more: Ervin certain Braidmen will keep their guard up

"It's a fantastic opportunity for the club to make a senior final but as we all know semi-finals are unpredictable and anything can happen," he added.

"They have established Premiership players of real quality across the pitch.

"I watched them play against Portadown in the 1-1 draw and they could have won that game.

"Johnny Taylor and Jim Ervin have played for Glentoran and Linfield, they know how to win trophies and guys like Allen Jenkins, David Cushley and Matthew Tipton pose a massive threat.

"But it's an 11 v 11 clash and my boys will have belief and we are looking forward to it."

If Larne could go on and lift the Shield for the first time in the club's history it would be a moment to cherish for everyone connected with the Inver Park men but for one man in particular it will hold special significance.

Scott Irvine, who suffered a serious head injury during an Irish Cup match after he collided with a perimeter wall last year, is back on the pitch again, grateful to still be playing the game he loves.

"It's wonderful to have Scott back playing again but I think he would be the first to say it's never about him, it's about what he hopes to achieve with his team-mates," added McAlinden.

"We are all in this together and we have many foot soldiers, with Scott being one of them.

"He's a quiet, private lad who never would have been comfortable with all the attention that surrounded him. He's come through a horrific accident and done fantastically well to get back to where he is today."

Belfast Telegraph


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