Belfast Telegraph

Glebe boys are relishing chance to end Linfield's Irish Cup dream at Windsor

 

By Graham Luney

It was a Tennent's Irish Cup fifth round draw that was more intriguing than explosive as most of the Danske Bank Premiership's big guns emerged quietly confident they can progress to the next round.

Glenavon, who won the fourth oldest national cup competition in the world in 2014 and 2016, were handed a potentially tricky assignment at Carrick Rangers and Cliftonville take on Warrenpoint Town at Solitude, but holders Linfield, Crusaders and last season's beaten finalists Coleraine will be expected to roll over Glebe Rangers, Maiden City and Lisburn Distillery respectively.

As goalscoring legends Dessie Dickson and Glenn Ferguson completed the draw, hopes of a real mouthwatering tie vanished, but there are a few David v Goliath clashes giving unfancied sides an opportunity to hit the headlines on January 6.

The biggest early Christmas present fell at the feet of Jason Wilmont, manager of Ballymoney-based Glebe Rangers who are unbeaten in the Ballymena and Provincial League.

In earlier rounds they conquered Bangor, Rosemount Rec and Annagh United, but it doesn't get any more glamorous than a trip to Windsor Park to face David Healy's Linfield.

Andy Waterworth's hat-trick in last season's final crushed Coleraine's cup dream, and this north-west side, who were beaten 5-0 by Linfield in a League Cup match at Windsor Park two seasons ago, aren't expected to land a glove on the Premiership champions, but Wilmont is already licking his lips.

He said: "It's brilliant for the club. We played here a few seasons ago and the stadium wasn't finished, but to play here now is brilliant for us.

"It's a good financial boost to us and hopefully we will bring a few hundred fans.

"It's a community club that started in 1989 and people from the local estate progressed in the team. We had a setback when we were relegated out of Championship Two but the boys have bounced back and a lot of hard work is trying to get us moving in the right direction.

"This is a nice reward for that work and it's brilliant for the young players. It's great for me to manage a team here and for the players to play at Windsor. David Healy is a Northern Ireland legend and it's a real privilege for me to come up against him.

"A few of our boys played the last time at Windsor but it might be a case of parking the bus. The players will apply themselves and see where it takes us. It's an uphill struggle against the cup holders but we will enjoy it.

"We are doing well in the cups and unbeaten in the Ballymena Premier League, which we want to win, so the form is good.

"I've been involved with the club on and off for 20 years as a player and manager. I'd love to play in a game like this one though. I was at the Glens when I was younger and played in the Steel and Sons Cup, though I didn't make the first team.

"One of our players, Danny Brown, was with Linfield as a young teenager but all the players will be buzzing. We've a big squad and the players will hope to be involved in this one."

Clubs are competing for £90,000 in prize money, with the winners pocketing £20,000 and runner-up £15,000.

In another fascinating David v Goliath tussle, Crusaders, who haven't lifted the trophy since 2009, welcome Northern Ireland Intermediate League side Maiden City to Seaview.

Other Premiership sides hoping to avoid an embarrassing early exit are Ballymena United at home to NIFL Intermediate Premier outfit Moyola, Ards who entertain Crumlin Star, Ballinamallard who host Immaculata and Dungannon who will wrestle with Limvady United at Stangmore Park.

Warrenpoint Town boss Matthew Tipton reflected on a difficult test on the road at Cliftonville, saying: "It's as tough as you can get but we will give it a rattle as we have done all season."

Glentoran will travel to Lurgan Celtic anxious to embark on a positive cup run to inject some hope into a season which until now has been frustrating.

Boss Gary Haveron said: "It will be a tough place to go, they will relish the chance to beat us and it will be tricky. We have boys coming back from injury and with our strongest team we are capable of beating anyone."

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