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Irish Cup: Linfield will ‘absolutely not’ rest key players against Oxford Sunnyside

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Cup winner: David Healy with the Irish Cup after Linfield beat Larne in last year’s final. Credit: INPHO/Stephen Hamilton

Cup winner: David Healy with the Irish Cup after Linfield beat Larne in last year’s final. Credit: INPHO/Stephen Hamilton

©INPHO/Stephen Hamilton

Cup winner: David Healy with the Irish Cup after Linfield beat Larne in last year’s final. Credit: INPHO/Stephen Hamilton

David Healy insists he will not be taking any big risks with team selection as Linfield kick off their Irish Cup defence tomorrow.

The 44-time winners host Oxford Sunnyside in a true heavyweight v underdog clash.

Most will expect Linfield, who are battling on three fronts this month, to easily overcome the Mid-Ulster League Intermediate A side.

Healy could also be forgiven for having one eye on the packed new year fixture programme.

After tomorrow’s clash, they face Larne in the Co Antrim Shield final, before four crucial league games in a fortnight.

But with matches coming at a rapid pace, Healy has ruled out making wholesale changes to his starting XI this weekend.

And he admits there is an element of unpredictability about their opponents’ threat.

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“We don’t know a lot about them but we have had someone in and around there having a look,” he revealed.

“It is always difficult when you come up against a team like this.

“People will ask if we are going to rest players, are we going to leave our main ones out - absolutely not.

“The players are fit and ready, so there won’t be large-scale changes.

“We will be taking the cup seriously, we will be taking our selection seriously, and we will be wanting to put ourselves through to the next round.”

Linfield beat Larne in last season’s final to lift the cup for a 44th time.

The trophy was secured in unusual circumstances, with Covid disruption forcing it to be played in a truncated 24-day window.

For Healy, the memories of last season’s success serve as motivation as they set out on another cup quest.

“It was a great achievement considering what we had to go through to achieve it last time,” he added.

“You had the unfamiliar circumstances - a semi-final on a Tuesday night, the final on a Friday night.

“It would be great to get a cup run but we know other teams are targeting the cup because it is so prestigious, but we will be no different.”

After a league and cup double in 2021, Linfield started off the new year in style with a big win at struggling Dungannon last Saturday.

They won 6-1 to open up a two-point gap at the top of the table, taking advantage of slip-ups by Glentoran and Cliftonville in recent days.

Healy was pleased with his team’s all-round performance at Stangmore Park, and believes they are in good shape entering the second half of the season.

However, with tomorrow the first of six games this month, Healy is aware that there is plenty of hard work still ahead.

“Yes, 2021 was a good year and we started off 2022 in a good way and on a high,” he added.

“But it was only one game, so we won’t be reading too much into that.

“We have 21 weeks left to the end of the season, and we are going to have to be strong for most of those weeks.”

Today’s opponents are managed by Paddy McCrory and, in veteran midfielder Peter McCann, have a past Irish Cup winner. McCann was part of the Portadown side that lifted the trophy in 2005.


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