Larne hero Davy McDaid says he’s in the mood to fire the club to more European play-off final success tonight.
In June last year, the former Cliftonville frontman scored twice in Larne’s 3-1 Europa Conference League play-off final victory over the Reds at Inver Park and he’s now hoping to repeat the trick against Glentoran at the BetMcLean Oval tonight (7.45pm).
Tiernan Lynch’s side went on to progress to the third qualifying round following wins over Bala Town and Danish side Aarhus, earning the club around £723,000 prizemoney.
Glentoran lost to Cliftonville in three of the first four European play-off finals — with McDaid bagging the winner in the first one back in 2016 — and they are under pressure to salvage a European spot after a trophyless campaign which included Irish Cup explusion for fielding an ineligible player.
The Invermen’s maiden odyssey into continental competition remains fresh in the memory and will inspire the visitors this evening, with McDaid confident he can land another knockout blow.
“I’ve great memories last year from beating Glenavon in the semis and Cliftonville in the final,” said the ex-Derry City man.
“I got two goals in the final and it wasn’t too bad a game, if I could do that again I’ll be happy.
“I’d bite your hand off for a goal or winner but what matters is the team gets the victory.
“People talk about the money and it’s nice for the club but the big thing for me is the young lads playing in Europe for the first time and fans being part of the journey.
"It’s more than just money for me. I have been cheering on Irish League teams in Europe, you want to see them do well and it’s great for the country.
“If we don’t win the game, I’ll be cheering on Glentoran in Europe.”
McDaid added: “Last year we showed that you can win matches against the odds.”
The 31-year-old is gearing up for another big match — his wedding to Faye early next month and the celebrations in Dubai.
He’s hoping for a busy summer with another European mission to tackle but Glentoran will be formidable rivals and McDaid rates their attacking power the best in the league.
“Since the split, we have been playing better,” he says. “We have been keeping clean sheets. Our defence was outstanding and we could have made it easier for ourselves by taking chances but the goalkeeper, back four and midfield have given us a platform to build on.
“Glentoran have the best attack in the league by a distance in my eyes. You have Jay Donnelly, Conor McMenamim and then Shay McCartan, Rory Donnelly; they have great attacking options but we have been solid and games between the sides have been tight. One goal could nick it.”
There’s a feeling around the Irish League that a club can reach the group stages of the Europa Conference League with a little fortune and a favourable draw.
The former Coleraine striker believes that full-time clubs can have that ambition.
“I think our clubs can make the group stages but it’s much more likely with a full-time club,” argues McDaid.
“For a part-time side to do it would be a big ask. Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk went full-time and the European runs they went on was incredible.
“We can look to them and use it as a platform. Whoever wins on Friday won’t disguise the reality it has been a poor league season.
“Europe would help soften the blow.”
Larne lost their way in the Premiership title race and shot themselves in the foot by conceding poor goals.
But since the split, they have looked more resolute and resilient.
Boss Tiernan Lynch believes his side are going into this play-off final with quiet confidence.
“This season we have conceded too many goals and that’s where we have let ourselves down,” he said.
“We’ve been scoring goals and creating chances but we have conceded too many silly goals. For the last few games, we have looked a lot more solid and the clean sheets have told a tale.”
Meanwhile, Carrick Rangers have signed former Linfield and Glentoran striker Curtis Allen from Coleraine.
“It’s great to sign for the club,” said Allen.
“Having spoken to Stuart (King) and Peter (Clarke, chairman) I am excited to start a new chapter in my career as a Carrick Rangers player. I am looking forward to bringing some experience to the team and hopefully I can provide plenty of goals.
“After coming to the end of my contract at Coleraine, I have had to re-evaluate where I was personally in my own career and what I was wanting to get out of it.
“The conversations I have had with Carrick have really sold the club to me and I feel I can come here and bring lots to the team both on and off the pitch.”
Carrick boss King said: “Players with a track record of scoring goals are hard to find so for us to recruit a player like Curtis is massive for the club.”