Islandmagee boss Sammy Smyth recently got up close and personal with today’s Samuel Gelston’s Whiskey Irish Cup opponents Cliftonville – and he now fears the worst!
The former Larne player travelled to Mourneview Park last Saturday with his assistant Darryl Kernohan to put the Reds under the microscope in the League clash with Glenavon and was mightily impressed by Paddy McLaughlin’s boys’ performance.
Even though Cliftonville lost for the first time at home in the League this season when beaten by north Belfast rivals Crusaders in midweek, Smyth admits it will be a long 90 minutes for his Amateur League troops.
“It’s a mammoth task,” admitted Smyth. “Darryl and I watched Cliftonville at Glenavon and they were fantastic, I was so, so impressed. Their fitness levels are different class... the team showed great energy all around the park.
“They have been in and around the top of the Premiership all season and you could see why. They are capable of going toe-to-toe with the full-time clubs.
“Their full-backs just never stopped bombing forward throughout the 90 minutes, especially the lad (Levi) Ives. Rory Hale also runs the show in the middle of the park.
“I just hope Paddy McLaughlin feels sorry for me and doesn’t play a lot of those lads.
“Even when I looked at their (substitutes’) bench, Joe Gormley was sitting there... he couldn’t even get a starting shirt. The two lads up front, (Ryan) Curran and (Paul) O’Neill are a handful. They really work hard.
“Overall, I was really impressed by Cliftonville, they were outstanding from start to finish. Their goalkeeper could have sat along with us in the stand, that’s how good they were, so we know it’s going to be a long afternoon for us.”
Smyth, of course, has sampled an Irish Cup final. He was assistant boss to Jimmy McGeough when Larne reached the 2005 final, only to be beaten by Portadown.
“Yes, it was a great occasion, cup football is special,” added Smyth.
“Although everyone likes to get one of the bigger guns, I was hoping to avoid a Premiership side, but you have to take what you get. We’ll be bringing a couple of hundred supporters up with us, so it will be a great day.
“Unfortunately, I’m down to the bare bones in terms of numbers. Two of the boys are cup-tied, there a few out injured and one came down this week with Covid. Another lad works on the boats and he returned to work this week. It’s hardly ideal ahead of such a big game.”