Elliott Morris: Cup show must go on
glens keeper is sorry that the blues and reds have opted out of setanta
On the domestic front Elliott Morris is still wary of Linfield and Cliftonville. And the Glentoran goalkeeper wishes he still felt that way in the Setanta Sports Cup.
Morris, who was the first name on the Glentoran teamsheet in the 2008 Setanta Cup final when Alan McDonald's side lost to Cork City at Turners Cross, is still a huge supporter of the all-Ireland tournament and he's disappointed that the 2014 party is going ahead without Linfield and Cliftonville.
The Blues and Reds declined an invitation to take part in this season's competition with a congested fixture list from February shaping their thinking.
Linfield chiefs have also stated that reduced prizemoney made the tournament a less attractive proposition.
The all-Ireland door has opened up for Ballinamallard United and Coleraine and both clubs have seized the chance to come onboard.
But the absence of Linfield, inaugural winners in 2005, and Tommy Breslin's side means that some of the finest Irish League talent has opted out.
Morris is disappointed that his fierce rivals on the domestic stage have, on this occasion, decided not to participate.
"I am very disappointed that they have gone down that road," said the Oval shot-stopper.
"They have their own reasons for not entering but I'm sorry to hear it.
"We want our strongest teams from the Irish League competing in an all-Ireland tournament and there's no question that Linfield have set the standards until last season when Cliftonville performed very well.
"Whether it's in Europe or the Setanta Cup we like to see Irish League clubs do well and it lifts the profile of a league which is often criticised.
"I like to see teams from our league doing well across the board and hopefully Linfield and Cliftonville will return to the competition next season.
"Coleraine and Ballinamallard have jumped at the chance to join the competition and that's great for them. They see the positives to it as we still do.
"From a playing perspective, it's always interesting to play against and pit your wits against the top teams on this island.
"Clubs can build relationships and I also feel it's a great educational experience for the younger players too.
"I just enjoy playing football and I'd rather play a game rather than train on a cold, wet night!
"We beat St Patrick's Athletic, who didn't manage to score a goal against us, but they went on to win their league so it was some achievement."
Glentoran will meet holders Shamrock Rovers, with Coleraine facing Dundalk and debutants Ballinamallard against League of Ireland winners St Pat's. Crusaders will be reunited with Sligo Rovers, the side they overcame in the semi-finals en route to beating Derry City in the decider at the Oval in 2012.
The Glens' 2008 loss to Cork City was a painful chapter in the club's history but Morris prefers to treasure the memories of an amazing cup run.
"In those days the Eircom League was regarded as much superior than the Irish league but we performed heroics to get to the final," he added.
"We were winning matches 1-0 and were brilliant that year. We took the lead in the final though Kyle Neill but in the end it was a step too far for us.
"They were playing at their home ground and the crowd was very passionate – their fans never shut up and were their 12th man.
"But it was still a fantastic effort from us and I believe an Irish League team can win it again after Linfield in 2005 and Crusaders in 2012.
"In a knock-out tournament and with a little luck, we can get the better of teams who would be expected to beat us."
Morris' immediate priority is keeping a clean sheet against Crusaders at Seaview tomorrow as Eddie Patterson's men bid to shatter the Crues' 22-match unbeaten run.
The match promises to be a stern test of the Crues' title-winning credentials as the Glens have only lost one of their last 10 league outings.
A 3-0 win over Warrenpoint Town helped shake off the disappointment of losing 2-0 to Portadown in the Sky Sports televised clash at the Oval.
"The next few games for us are massive," added Morris.
"I'm not saying they are make or break in terms of our league season but we are playing top sides who are above us in Crusaders and Linfield (on Boxing Day) while Ards are fighting for every point.
"Hopefully we can get the right result on Saturday to set us up for the Ards and Linfield matches.
"If we can beat the Crues we will move close to the top two and that is our objective."
Glentoran have confirmed that defender Jimmy Callacher has played his last game for the club after rejecting a contract offer.
As revealed in the Belfast Telegraph last month, Callacher is poised to join Linfield.