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Glens boss in call for Reds Windsor semi



Mick McDermott

Mick McDermott

Mick McDermott

Glentoran manager Mick McDermott has argued his side's Irish Cup semi-final with Cliftonville must be played at Windsor Park and he's suggested the last four showdown later this month could even be postponed due to Under-21 call-ups.

The semi-final clashes are scheduled for March 27 and 28 but the international venue will not be available should Northern Ireland conquer Bosnia-Herzegovina on March 26 and progress to a Euro 2020 play-off decider against either the Republic of Ireland or Slovakia at the stadium on Tuesday, March 31.

While the other semi-final between Ballymena United and 2018 winners Coleraine is expected to take place at The Oval, most observers feel Windsor Park is the most suitable venue for a Glens v Reds battle which could attract a crowd of up to 6,000.

Glentoran feel that too many supporters of both clubs would be frozen out of the fixture if it is staged at another venue and it could even be postponed if Paul O'Neill, Chris Gallagher and Caolan Marron are called up for under-21 duty.

Northern Ireland Under-21s have Euro qualifiers in Russia on March 26 and Ukraine on March 31.

"We have a problem with Windsor Park possibly not being available but that's only one problem," said McDermott. "The other is what if Paul O'Neill, Chris Gallagher and Caolan Marron are called up for the Under-21s? We won't play, we will cancel the game. That's the rules. If you have two players with the under-21s you are entitled to postpone the game."

McDermott, whose side came from behind to beat holders Crusaders in their last eight tie, wants the Irish FA to make sure the semi takes place at Windsor.

“I’ve no idea where the game will be played but I don’t understand why the Irish Cup semi-final should be played at a time when Northern Ireland are potentially playing,” he added.

“The play off dates have been known for some time so why are we arranging a big Irish Cup semi-final on an international date? Playing the game on that date doesn’t make sense to us.

“What they should do is play the Irish Cup semi-final early after the split. Does it really matter when it is played? You could play it a week before the final if you really had to. The ideal place for Glentoran v Cliftonville is Windsor Park. It has to be there. There’s no point sending both clubs to Ballymena or Glenavon. Those grounds can’t accommodate 5,000 or 6,000 people. My suggestion would be to play one round of fixtures after the split and then stage the Irish Cup semi.

“I thought the authorities want to promote the game and provide the fans with the best experience.

“How do you promote the game by putting an Irish Cup semi-final featuring Glentoran, one of the best supported clubs in the country, and Cliftonville with their good support in a venue which can’t accommodate the fans because of safety and security reasons?

“Should the game be played at Ballymena or Glenavon, in my view, not a chance.

“We also have to sell tickets for the game and you need to plan ahead.”

There is huge interest in the semi-final with Cliftonville dreaming of a first Irish Cup success since 1979 and the Glens aiming to reach their first final since 2015.

Glentoran’s last eight tie with the Crues produced late drama when Robbie McDaid struck home a late penalty amid protests from the visitors.

But McDermott insists the Cup triumph wasn’t needed to keep confidence high in the camp.

“I thought it was a clear penalty and their goalkeeper agreed with me,” added the Glens chief ahead of their home league clash with Cliftonville tomorrow.

“We have been confident and playing well and we didn’t need the Irish Cup win over Crusaders to keep confidence levels high.

“We lost two matches in five months in all competitions and we have lost twice at The Oval all season. We haven’t doubted for one minute that we aren’t moving in the right direction, not a chance.  We are happy with our progress.”

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