Belfast Telegraph

Swifts wary of Ballymena revenge mission: McAree

By Adrian Rutherford

Dungannon Swifts could be without four key players when they take on Ballymena United in a repeat of the BetMcLean League Cup final tonight.

Christopher Hegarty is struggling with a hamstring injury picked up at Carrick Rangers last Tuesday, with the defender rated doubtful.

The Swifts are also missing striker Johnny Lafferty (knee) and midfielder Seanan Clucas, who suffered a head injury in the cup final triumph.

And Liam McMenamin is still out with a long-term hamstring injury, although the right-back has returned to training and is expected to play in a reserve game in the next 10 days.

Tonight's Danske Bank Premiership clash is a rematch of the League Cup decider, which the Swifts won 3-1.

This time three points are the prize, with Dungannon needing to win to close the gap on Ballymena.

Swifts boss Rodney McAree has targeted seventh place in the league, which brings a play-off for European qualification.

He said: "Ballymena will still be hurting from losing the final and they may be out for revenge.

"However, the cup final has gone and for us that shouldn't have anything to do with Tuesday night.

"For us it's a chance to narrow the gap on Ballymena and give us a more realistic chance of making seventh."

The cup triumph ensures this will always be a season fondly remembered by Dungannon.

But with nine games still to play - and European football still a possibility - McAree wants a strong finish to the campaign.

"We've tried to drive into the players that, as good as the League Cup win was, maybe there is a better day ahead," he added. "If we can get that seventh spot, get a play-off and get that European spot, I think it would be a massive achievement.

"That opportunity is still possible and we have to grab hold of it.

"A win on Tuesday night would help us do that.

"I don't think it's the end of the world if we don't win, but I don't want to be going into the post-split games a mile off seventh."

• IRISH League sponsors Danske Bank are launching a bid to increase the rising interest rate in the domestic game.

This Saturday has been designated 'Danske Day' with special giveaways and prizes to entice more spectators into the grounds.

"We want supporters to come out and celebrate exciting and affordable football on their doorsteps this weekend," NI Football League development manager Steven Mills said.

"We'd encourage everyone to get out to any one of the six games this Saturday and join us in adding to the unique atmosphere at a crucial stage of such an exciting season."

Supporters at all six games will receive special giveaways with additional prizes to be won for the best photos taken on the day by using the hashtag #DanskeDay on social media.

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