Belfast Telegraph

Why Queen's kept dream Irish Cup tie against Linfield at The Dub rather than switching to Windsor Park, explains Peter Thompson

 

Peter Thompson
Peter Thompson

By Alex Mills

Queen's University boss Peter Thompson insists facing Linfield in the fifth round of the Sadler's Peaky Blinder Irish Cup at The Dub is his dream tie.

Thompson simply couldn't wipe the smile off his face when his Championship side were handed possibly the toughest fixture of the lot in last month's draw.

And, unlike most clubs, instead of rescheduling the game for the glamour of Windsor Park - with the possibility of a financial jackpot - the University chief preferred to bring David Healy's aristocrats along to their base at Upper Malone.

"Maybe the board thought about moving it, certainly not myself and my coaching staff," said Thompson. "We have a very slim chance of winning. Had we moved the game to Windsor Park, we would have had no chance.

"I've been asked many times, but this is the Irish Cup and we were the first team out.

"It's like Burton Albion drawing Manchester United in the FA Cup. The immediate thought would be to switch the game to Old Trafford purely for financial reasons.

"To be honest, it never crossed my mind, although the people who look after our purse strings may differ. We worked hard to get into senior football, so why should we turn down the chance to bring possibly the biggest club in Ireland to Queen's?

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"The capacity is 350, but 200 will be our fans. We are more excited about bringing Linfield to Upper Malone than travelling to play at a stadium that would be 95 per cent empty.

"If we were to play Linfield 20 times at Windsor, we'd be beaten 20 times. At our home ground, we would maybe win one out of 20. Let's hope that we strike it lucky."

Queen's will be given little hope of producing one of the all-time great Irish Cup shocks and Thompson is aware that Blues boss Healy is the ultimate professional.

"I know David quite well," he added. "When he came back from England, I coached his son at the Manchester United School of Excellence.

"For me he's an absolute gentleman and has been a breath of fresh air for the Irish League. He has brought a sense of professionalism to the game. I can't speak highly enough of him.

"I know how he operates, and he doesn't leave any stone unturned. He even goes out to watch the Linfield Under-10 and Under-12 teams. He knows everyone inside out. I've even told my players that David will probably know them more than I do.

"David knows how we play and he'll know the strengths and weaknesses of our players - he'll know everything about us."

There is also a little added spice because Linfield skipper Jamie Mulgrew will be coming up against his little brother Ben, who plays in the middle of the park for Queen's.

Thompson added: "Ben had been out for a time. He sustained an injury at the start of October and was out for seven weeks.

"He's now back playing, so based on tactics he'll come into the side. I've already told him there will be no sentiment - I don't care who his brother is!

"We've got attacking players in Ben, Matthew Hughes, Jonah Mitchell, Mark McKenna and Ciaran O'Hare - and we've signed Brendan Glackin from Portadown. But we are coming up against the best defence in the league.

"It's a one-off Cup game, so we'll give it a blast."

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