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Moyola ready to cause an upset against local rivals Ballymena

 

By Graham Luney

Ballymena United have developed a fierce knockout competition reputation in recent years, but NIFL Intermediate Premier side Moyola Park are confident they can grab the headlines.

The 2014 runners-up fancy a strong Irish Cup run this season, and few would bet against that after watching the Sky Blues storm into this month's County Antrim Shield final against Crusaders.

Last season, David Jeffrey's side lifted the League Cup at Seaview, while the Shield arrived at the Showgrounds in 2013 and 2016.

United haven't won the Irish Cup since 1989 and Jeffrey, who steered Linfield to seven Irish Cup victories, knows that with a little good fortune his Braidmen could be relishing a big day out in May.

If the Sky Blues are to retain any hope of winning the trophy for a sixth time, they must see off Mervyn Pattison's side who are currently fourth in their league, boasting five wins from nine matches.

Defender Steven McQuillan says there's a real derby feel to this clash and he's hoping the visitors, who were the first winners of the Irish Football Association's Challenge Cup on April 9, 1881, can embarrass their Premiership opponents.

"We are very happy with the draw," said McQuillan.

"They have a quality manager and players, and the boys will relish going up against a top side at the Showgrounds. Anything can happen in a Cup game but there's a huge gulf in class between the sides. We'll give it a go, and Ballymena feel like a local club to us, just up the road.

"A few of our lads will have been at Ballymena before and we are familiar with their players. It's disappointing we can't play the game at our home ground but it's a nice stadium and we will enjoy playing there.

"I have played there a few times and it's a decent pitch. We didn't start the season well but our recent form has been better and things are going well.

"The aim is to go out there and win, but we are under no illusions, it's a big ask. We'll need to perform very well but anything can happen in a Cup game. They are a quality Premiership side who have done really well in Cup competitions.

"Our lads don't have major Premiership experience but they will relish the chance to show what they can do against a top side."

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