Belfast Telegraph

Glentoran and Crusaders must make the trek to Lurgan

By Stuart McKinley

Crusaders and Glentoran fans will have to travel to Mourneview Park in Lurgan for their Irish Cup semi-final later this month after Windsor Park was deemed unavailable for the last four contest.

And the Irish FA's Challenge Cup committee has also decided that the tie between Ballymena United and Portadown will have an early evening kick-off, to avoid a clash with the other game.

Eyebrows were raised by fans of both the Crues and Glens, whose last Irish Cup semi-final, back in 1996, was played at Windsor Park.

But the committee was forced to move this season's clash out of Belfast because the new pitch at the international venue, which was only laid last summer at a heavy cost, is already in need of repair work ahead of Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 qualifier against Finland the weekend after the semi-finals.

It is understood that the turf in the goalmouth areas is to be relaid and after Linfield's home Premiership match against Warrenpoint Town this weekend the pitch will be given a three-week rest period in order for it to be in the best possible condition for the international on Sunday, March 29.

The idea of splitting the kick-off times is nothing new. Indeed the last time Ballymena and the Ports met in the last four the match also had a teatime start, due to live television coverage.

The Irish FA also had split kick-offs for the semi-finals two seasons ago, when the Glens beat Portadown at Windsor Park in a lunchtime game before Cliftonville won their north Belfast derby semi at The Oval later in the afternoon.

IRISH CUP SEMI-FINALS: (Saturday March 21): Crusaders v Glentoran (Mourneview Park, 3pm), Ballymena United v Portadown (The Oval, 5.30pm).

e THE Scottish FA have announced that a minute's applause will take place before the friendly against Northern Ireland at Hampden Park on Wednesday, March 25.

The honour is in memory of former Scotland captain Dave McKay, who died on Monday at the age of 80.

The ex-Spurs star won the last of his 22 international caps against Northern Ireland in 1965.

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