Belfast Telegraph

Tennent's Irish Cup semi-final: I don't intend facing more semi-final pain: Glenavon boss Hamilton

By Alex Mills

Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton insists his team-talk will be easy ahead of tomorrow's Tennent's Irish Cup semi-final showdown with Coleraine at the Warden Street Showgrounds.

The Lurgan Blues, who impressively defeated Linfield in last season's final, have had an indifferent season which leaves them lagging in sixth place in the league table.

However, they appear to reserve their best form for the game's top knockout tournament, reflected in their thumping 5-0 win over Mid-Ulster rivals Portadown earlier this month.

Having lifted the glittering trophy twice in the last three seasons, Hamilton is aware of the glitz and glamour that comes with a cup victory, but he has also sampled the heartache of semi-final defeat - and that's something he will hammer home to his players ahead of what has now become Glenavon's biggest game of the season.

"We are the cup holders and people will be saying there is extra pressure on us to try and retain the trophy," said the former Northern Ireland striker. "But I don't look at it as pressure. It's a semi-final - another game and one away from another final.

"We've enjoyed a great run in the cup in recent years, it's been smashing. But I know what it's like to lose as well, having lost in two League Cup semi-finals, so I don't want to experience that feeling again and that's something I will be emphasising to the players."

Nevertheless, Hamilton believes his boys go into the game as big underdogs.

Hamilton added: "The form book would suggest that Coleraine are favourites. They are on an unbelievable run - 14 games unbeaten.

"To me that is title winning form, never mind a cup run. Oran (Kearney) has done a fantastic job at Coleraine. In many ways both clubs are very similar in their approach to the game.

"Oran and I are not afraid to give the kids a chance. Our philosophy is if they are good enough, they are old enough.

"Both clubs haven't the financial clout of Crusaders, Linfield and Cliftonville to bring in big signings, so we have relied on good young local players.

"We have seen the emergence of some great kids at Mourneview Park - and Coleraine are now reaping the benefits as well.

"It has worked for us as we have two Irish Cup wins in recent years, along with finishing in the top three in the league.

"We may be struggling a little bit in terms of our league position, but Coleraine are up there in third place. They are one of the form teams in the league, reflected in their win over Crusaders last week, so they'll be big favourites for this cup tie."

Hamilton is wary of the threat that Eoin Bradley brings to the table. The big striker spent a successful two and a half years at Glenavon before returning to Coleraine back in January.

"Skinner (Bradley) is a top player," added Hamilton.

"He's also a great lad and still has many friends at Glenavon.

"But we had a decision to make in terms of letting him leave.

"We had to do what was right for us. When we released Skinner it opened the way for us to sign Andrew Mitchell on a pre-contract.

"He is only 23 and has bags of potential. He's scoring regularly for Dungannon and has the potential to become one of the best strikers in the league.

"I just hope Skinner doesn't come back to bite us!"

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