Glens prepare for emotional challenge at Carrick
Glentoran boss Mick McDermott is aware that his boys must not only meet the challenge of Carrick Rangers at the Loughshore Hotel Arena today, but the flood of emotion that will come with it.
It will be the east Antrim team's first game since the tragic and sudden death of midfielder Jerry Thompson, whose passing rocked Niall Currie's club to its foundations.
The 24-year-old joined Rangers in the summer following spells with Cliftonville, Larne, Donegal Celtic, Ards and Portadown, but boss Currie admitted he 'lit up' the club since his arrival.
Before the start of today's game, Carrick Rangers will pay tributes to Jerry, with members of his family invited to take part.
"It will be an emotionally charged day for Carrick Rangers on the back of what has been tragic circumstances," said McDermott. "It's never the easiest of places to visit because they are the sort of team that get in your face right from the start, but I'm sure they'll be even more fired up because they'll be determined to do Jerry proud.
"So, we are expecting at bit of an onslaught, but it's a challenge we must meet head on."
McDermott's boys approach the game in the best possible shape - unbeaten in their last nine games, which began with a 3-1 win over Rangers at the Oval.
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And there will be up to five former Glentoran players in the home line-up - Aaron Hogg, James Ferrin, Lee Chapman, Dan Kelly and Kyle Cherry.
"In recent weeks, we've had two draws and a win against Crusaders, Coleraine and Cliftonville," added McDermott, we are disappointed we didn't get a few points more, but they are all top sides.
"We now have Carrick Rangers, Linfield and Ballymena United in the next week - you don't get anything easy in this league.
"For me, it's the teams with the bigger squads that will come out of Christmas period with the most points."
McDermott must negotiate the challenge at Carrick without striker Cameron Stewart, dismissed last week, for an apparent use of an elbow on Howard Beverland - a decision that left the Glentoran boss in a rage.
"It was never a red card," he maintains. "Cameron was protecting himself, as any big player does in that situation. The ball was rolling out of play, there was simply no malice in it at all.
"I was disappointed with the reaction of the Crusaders player.
"To be honest, I think something must be done to help improve the relationship between match officials and club managers and coaches.
"Everyone is demanding more of us as managers and players, clubs are urged to go full time, there is pressure to get into Europe. If everything is being upgraded, then every department in football must be upgraded, which includes the officials."
However, McDermott, who this week cancelled the contract of midfielder Tom Byrne, was thrilled with his team's performance last week against Crusaders, especially in the second half.
"Our attitude, commitment and work rate were tremendous," he added: "I thought we were the better team and really disappointed we didn't win all three points."