Crumlin Star manager Sean Brown is open and honest enough to admit that the draw for the second round of the Tennent's Irish Cup didn’t bring him what he was after, but he wants the players to make the best of what has been sent their way.
The Ardoyne side’s gaffer similarly had no reservations about his thoughts on Crumlin’s draw in the previous round. At the stage of the competition when the few remaining Amateur League teams in the competition dream their efforts and progress will be rewarded with a plum draw against one of local football’s top teams, they were handed a fifth round tie against NI Intermediate side Oxford United Stars.
Having drawn Carrick Rangers in this Saturday’s last sixteen stage, the message now for his team is the same as it was then - win the game, and give yourselves the chance to play in your ideal match. And there are no prizes for guessing that the dream for Brown and his players would be an ultimate David v Goliath match derby day against Cliftonville.
The Crumlin Star boss stated: “Without being disrespectful to Carrick, it wasn’t the one we wanted. This is the third time we reached the fifth round, and we were hoping this might be the time we got Cliftonville. Then when we beat Oxford and the sixth round draw was being made, we were both in the last six in the hat, and we were sure it was going to happen… but it didn’t.
“There’s no doubt about it, everyone in the team and the management at this club is a Cliftonville supporter, and when we get the chance, we are there watching them, so to play against them would be unbelievable.
“Maybe we will get our chance again. But now, it’s up to us to go about this game in the right way.”
Of course, while the odds were in the Amateur League team’s favour in the previous round, they are strongly against them this time around. It may only have been this time last year that Crumlin’s Danske Bank Premiership opponents were playing Intermediate football, but Brown has urged his players to keep in mind the form that got them into the top tier.
He warned: “People have been telling me that this is a game we can win, and while I won’t argue with them, they seem to have forgotten that they did the treble in Intermediate football last season. Yes, they won the Steel and Sons Cup, but then they went on and lifted the Intermediate Cup, and even though the league games were mounting up all the while, they went and won Championship One.
“That tells me the type of squad they have there. I know what it’s like to have a big fixture backlog, and when you are playing games Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday every week at the end of the season, it is tough. Really tough.”
Indeed, it is precisely those type of concerns weighing on Brown’s mind as he considers the wider ramifications of this Saturday’s big cup clash.
Brown continued: “I just hope, for everybody’s sake, that the game goes ahead. The pitch has been bad with all the weather, and I know their games have been getting called off. I am sure their groundsman has been working hard to do everything he can, but I am not holding out a lot of hope.
“Their games will be stacking up with those they have had called off, and we have only played five of our league games so far this season with the cups and the weather.
“These are great cup runs, but I’m a believer that we have to get something in terms of a trophy. The fact that we have been further in the Irish Cup shows me we are heading in the right direction.”
“As for the Irish Cup, you want to know if we can make the quarter-final? Well, it’s football, so it’s possible.”