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Linfield vs Glentoran: ‘Quality’ Glens tipped to end long wait for league title as Big Two derby awaits


Glentoran and Linfield will clash at a sold out Windsor Park on December 27. Pic: INPHO/Matt Mackey

Glentoran and Linfield will clash at a sold out Windsor Park on December 27. Pic: INPHO/Matt Mackey

©INPHO/Matt Mackey

Raymond Morrison

Raymond Morrison


Glentoran and Linfield will clash at a sold out Windsor Park on December 27. Pic: INPHO/Matt Mackey

Glentoran legend Raymond Morrison has backed his old club to bring the Gibson Cup back to The Oval for the first time since 2009.

Belfast’s Big Two are slugging it out at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership, injecting considerably more spice into their festive showdown at Windsor Park on Monday.

The old enemies are both on 42 points with David Healy’s champions boasting a superior goal difference of three.

Cliftonville are a point further back and can reclaim top spot if they beat Crusaders in the north Belfast derby at Solitude — which is currently on course to proceed despite a Covid-19 scare in the Crues camp — and the Big Two battle ends in a draw.

A crowd of around 9,500 is expected at a sold out Windsor, underlining the growing interest in the Irish League and the return of a fiercely competitive Linfield-Glentoran rivalry.

Under the ownership of Ali Pour, manager Mick McDermott has been rebuilding the team and most observers now feel the Glens have a squad capable of winning the title.

The Irish League transfer record was smashed to bring Shay McCartan to The Oval in a £100,000 summer deal and January will see striker Michael O’Connor, ex-Dundalk midfielder Sean Murray and former Rangers defender Darren Cole — who has left Derry City — join the club’s ranks.

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Morrison, who won two titles with the Glens, says the east Belfast giants can complete their Gibson Cup mission this season.

“The Glens are flying and now have real quality,” said ‘Nuts’ who made 432 appearances for the club.

“Fans are excited and they should be with the team’s form.

“When you are joint top of Christmas, you have a great chance of winning the league and I believe they have the squad to do it.

“I know Linfield have the experience of getting the job done but there’s enough quality at Glentoran.

“The Irish League needs a strong Big Two and crowds are coming back. It’s great to see.

“The league is the bread and butter, it’s what the fans want and they look strong all over the park. Plus, they have cover for every position.”

The Glens finished in third place last season, seven points adrift of Linfield but they are clearly a different animal this year.

Morrison, a 1992 Ulster Footballer of the Year winner who got his hands on the Irish Cup six times, spends much of time watching Gary Smyth’s Harland & Wolff Welders side with Tommy Leeman and Gary Hillis.

“The festive games are always special,” he added. “I can remember one that finished 3-3 at The Oval when I had to do a fitness test in the morning with Geordie Magill who was injured too.

“They are great occasions, though you can’t win them all! The atmosphere makes them special.

“So many things can happen between now and the end of the season such as injuries to key players, Covid disruption and fixture congestion.

“Linfield have been there and done it before but if the Glens can perform well into January, they will have a great chance.

“I enjoy going to watch the Welders in their new stadium and we are all delighted to see the football return after it was stopped during the pandemic.”

The Glens confirmed the arrival of defender Cole yesterday. The 29-year-old has also turned out for Greenock Morton, Livingston and Broxburn Athletic.

“I’m happy to be here,” he said. “I’ve never played in this league. I’ve played against teams in the league and I was surprised how good they were.

"When I had the chance to come here, it was an easy decision.

“You can see by the results and the support from the fans that it’s a club that wants to win things.

“Everyone wants to play and hopefully I can add to the team and do my best.

“You will do your best wherever you are and we want to keep winning so we win the league. I want to play and make the fans proud as much as myself.”

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