Tommy Wright last night claimed that the County Antrim Shield is the toughest knockout competition to win.
With only eight clubs now involved since it was revamped last season, with Intermediate clubs not involved now, the tournament has come under fire once again, with critics questioning whether or not the Shield is worthwhile to clubs.
Lisburn Distillery manager Wright, however, has defended the merits of the County Antrim FA’s flagship competition because of what has to be done in order to win it.
“There might be fewer teams in the Shield and therefore less rounds in the competition, but for me it can be the most difficult competition to win,” said Wright, ahead of tonight’s semi-final clash with Glentoran at New Grosvenor.
“If you’re going to do that then it’s more than likely that you’ll have to beat either Linfield or Glentoran, or maybe even both of them, to do that.
“We’ve already beaten Crusaders to get into the semi-final, now we play Glentoran and if we beat them then we’ll be up against either Cliftonville or Linfield in the final, so that’s how hard it is.
“There’s certainly no such thing as an easy game in this competition.”
Wright saw his team suffer a 5-0 defeat to the Glens earlier this month and Ballyskeagh has been something of a happy hunting ground for Scott Young’s team, who put six past the Whites on the opening day of last season.
The Distillery defence has been leaking goals at an alarming rate this season and the three they conceded in Saturday’s Premiership defeat to Coleraine took their goals against tally in the league to 33 in 13 games.
“Out of the 11 goals that we conceded in those two games against Glentoran last season and this I would say that we gift-wrapped 10 of them,” said Wright.
“We gave them too many easy goals in the 5-0 game and on Saturday as well the trend continued of individual mistakes costing us goals.
“We can use mistakes as an excuse for defeats.”
Despite the heavy rain which has hit most of Northern Ireland over the last couple of days — and also caused Wright to scrap last night’s training session — the New Grosvenor pitch is expected to be playable for tonight’s game, which has a 7.45pm kick-off.