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Mick McDermott: I was right to stand by extra-time rules for Irish Cup semi-finals

 

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Glens boss Mick McDermott

Glens boss Mick McDermott

©INPHO/Brian Little

Safe hands: Elliott Morris hails his spot-kick heroics

Safe hands: Elliott Morris hails his spot-kick heroics

PMAKER

Glens boss Mick McDermott

Mick McDermott has declared that he has no regrets about being the only manager of the four clubs in the Irish Cup semi-finals to insist on extra-time.

With Monday's matches between Coleraine and Ballymena United and Cliftonville versus Glentoran the first competitive fixtures for the players since March, the Irish FA were willing to shake up their rules and go straight to penalties after 90 minutes if all the clubs agreed but while David Jeffrey (Ballymena), Oran Kearney (Coleraine) and Paddy McLaughlin (Cliftonville) were content to go with Plan B, Glens boss McDermott stated he wanted extra-time to take place if the ties were level at the end of normal time.

That's exactly what happened with both games finishing 1-1 before Ballymena won 3-1 on penalties and the Glens were 7-6 victors in their shoot-out.

The Belfast battle turned out to be a classic played at a high tempo, though McDermott expects his team to have fully recovered for Friday's Windsor Park final.

"I was the only coach who voted for extra-time so I'll take the blame for that but I don't regret it," said McDermott. "We've been asked to change rules so many times in recent months and it wasn't our choice to play Monday/Friday.

"We could have played Saturday/Saturday or Monday/Saturday. The Uefa spot doesn't need to be nominated until August 3 so it wasn't my decision to make it Monday/Friday, so why should it be my decision to fix a problem?

"I think football is about extra-time and penalties. Of course, the health and wellbeing of players has to be important but they are footballers and the decision was justified by the excitement of the extra-time and penalties in both games.

"I'm not worried about fitness for the final after extra-time, there is a four-day turnaround. A three-day turnaround I'd be worried when you look at the statistics and data but I'm not worried about the four-day turnaround.

"During the season we play Saturday/Tuesday but even though we've been off for so long, if you've got your preparation right you shouldn't be worried. It will be hard and niggles are likely but that's something we'll deal with."

The Glens handled everything thrown at them by Cliftonville to reach the final against Ballymena with veteran goalkeeper Elliott Morris the hero, saving penalties from the excellent Conor McMenamin and Conor McDermott to earn a famous triumph. It was a shrewd choice from McDermott to select 39-year-old Morris ahead of Marijan Antolovic.

"Elliott playing was a big call. It always is when you leave people out but we make decisions based on not just ability, but form," said McDermott.

"We're observing people every day in training and we had to make a call. I know people will say Elliott justified the call but that's not to say Marijan wouldn't have made the same saves, though Elliott has come up trumps in the end.

"He's coming into his 19th season at Glentoran this coming season and he's going to be a big part of it."

Those comments from McDermott gave an indication of the importance of Morris to the east Belfast club given that promising Institute goalkeeper Rory Brown is on his way to the Oval along with ex-Northern Ireland defender Luke McCullough, with Derry City midfielder Jamie McDonagh another likely arrival.

There were big performances all over the pitch from the Glens, led expertly by skipper Marcus Kane. Patrick McClean and Joe Crowe were strong and Navid Nasseri and goalscorer Robbie McDaid a constant threat. McDermott made a point of praising substitute Ciaran O'Connor, who he felt helped transform the game.

The Glens manager added: "We are halfway there. It's nice to get through and it's nice to be in the final but we have to get over the last hurdle.

"Against Cliftonville it was a good game with lots of chances created by both sides. Larne probably play the best football I've seen this season but Cliftonville play the football where they can hurt you in multiple ways; long, short and really good on the ball.

"They are a talented team and can hurt you in a load of ways. Thankfully, though, we made it in the end and now we will face a tough game with Ballymena."

McDermott would love to see more fans than the 500 allowed in for the final, admitting that some members of his family won't be able to attend due to reduced numbers.

"Hopefully the Executive at the IFA can work something to get more fans in. I think it's reasonable when you look at the size of the venue," said McDermott. "If we can meet health and safety guidelines it would be nice.

"When players and their families and people involved in the club get tickets, there's not many left. There will be people who have stood on terraces for 40 years left out but hopefully nobody holds it against us.

"People will be disappointed. I'm disappointed. My family won't all be here but it is what it is."

Belfast Telegraph