Belfast Telegraph

I'm determined to land medal that my Northern Ireland international brother hasn't got, says Loughgall star Dallas

Marcus is on a mission to do what brother Stuart couldn't and clinch Cup success

By Steven Beacom

Marcus Dallas has cherished watching his younger brother Stuart become a Northern Ireland hero and shine in big matches for Brentford and Leeds United after making the move across the water from Crusaders.

Tomorrow, though, the spotlight will fall on the elder of the two when he plays in central midfield for Championship side Loughgall in their Tennent's Irish Cup semi-final against Cliftonville at The Oval.

And Euro 2016 star Stuart couldn't be happier for him.

The pair grew up playing football together in their home village of Coagh and talk every week about their respective games for Leeds and Loughgall.

For 28-year-old Marcus, this weekend sees him play in the most important club game of his life to date.

Loughgall, under shrewd boss Dean Smith, have had a sensational run to the last-four of the Irish Cup, beating top-flight Ards and Glenavon on the way. Dallas has been a key figure, as he will be in east Belfast against Barry Gray's hot favourites.

"It's brilliant to be at this stage," said Marcus, a forklift driver by day. "Winning at Glenavon was great for us because they can beat anyone. We deserved it though, and even Gary Hamilton and their players said that afterwards which meant a lot. Sometimes you can fluke a win against big clubs but we were very good.

"In the previous round we defeated Ards, even though they scored in the first 30 seconds. We stuck to our guns and equalised and were playing well. They lost their discipline a bit and had three players sent off and we got the winner late on.

"Now we are against Cliftonville and are there to enjoy ourselves. It's a big day out, and you never know what can happen, but you need them to have an off day and us to be at our best.

"Cliftonville have beaten Crusaders this season, scoring three and four, and in my opinion the Crues are the best in the country, so we know how dangerous they are, especially with a fantastic player like Joe Gormley."

The Northern Ireland junior international, who has played in the Regions Cup, added: "At club level this is going to be my biggest game and I can't wait for it. There's been hype all week at our club and everyone is buzzing.

"We can take heart from having beaten Ards and Glenavon."

Like Marcus, 26-year-old Leeds star Stuart is deservedly recognised as one of the genuine good guys in football.

"Stuart would ring and text after every game and we'd talk about the games we've just played in," revealed Marcus. "Ahead of the quarter-final with Glenavon he said just to go out and express myself and enjoy it.

"Growing up we played football all the time at the back of the house. Even at a young age you could see Stuart had great talent. He has had a fantastic career at club level and with Northern Ireland and we're very proud.

PANews BT_P-01b305b9-d800-4e17-9645-a2a240941e6f_I1.jpg
Stuart Dallas in action for Northern Ireland.

"When I was 16 or 17 I drifted away from the game with work whereas Stuart wanted to keep progressing and he is reaping the rewards. He is a good, down to earth lad who hasn't forgotten where he comes from. When he comes back he is with the boys we grew up with, having a beer.

"He's done so much but never won the Irish Cup, so if I could get a winners' medal that would be really special for the family."

Stuart attended Loughgall's league win against Harland & Wolff Welders last Friday and would be at tomorrow's Cup clash but for club commitments.

"Marcus is looking forward to it. It's a big match for him, though I believe he had the ability to play in the top flight throughout his career," said the ex-Seaview star. "He's a great guy and it's brilliant for him and Loughgall to reach the semis.

"I was beaten with the Crues in the decider by Linfield so it would be great if Marcus could get to this year's final. I'd be so delighted for Marcus and everyone at Loughgall if they could."

Belfast Telegraph

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