Ballymoney must hit heights to progress in Cup, says Kelly
Ballymoney's Gary Kelly believes there will be no hiding place when his team go head-to-head with Belmont in today's IBA Irish Cup first round clash at Church Street.
It's the toughest possible start for the Provincial club against a side that is steeped in cup tradition - they last had their hands on the trophy in 2016.
In contrast, Ballymoney are still craving their maiden success. But if they are to achieve their ambition, Kelly believes they must beat the best, and Belmont certainly come into that category.
"It's a tough opener and a game both sides could have done without at this stage," said Kelly, who represented Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games last month. "Thankfully we have home advantage.
"We know what to expect from Belmont. We played them two seasons back in an Irish Cup third round tie, but they beat us at their place. They are a top side - we'll need to be at our best."
Ballymoney have started their league campaign with maximum points in games against Dunluce and Letterkenny, but this will be a totally different proposition.
"Unfortunately, we'll not have Nicky McCaw available," added Kelly. "We'll still have a very strong team on show. Ally Davidson has joined us from Coleraine - he'll be a big asset."
Although they have never paraded the game's top knockout prize, Ballymoney have lost out in three finals - the last back in 2013 when beaten by Coleraine.
And they were also agonisingly beaten by Ballymena at the semi-final stage last season.
"It's been a case of so near, yet so far," added Kelly.
The winners are at home to Banbridge early next month.
IBA Irish Cup, first round: Portadown v Crumlin, Ulster Transport v St James's Gate, Ballymoney v Belmont, Willowfield v CYM, Donaghadee v Ballymena, Dun Laoghaire v Ewarts, Letterkenny v Larne, Limavady v Albert Foundry.
IBA Intermediate Cup, first round: CI-Knock v Magherafelt, Kilrea v Shaftesbury, Warrenpoint v Mossley, Sydenham v Musgrave, Dungiven v Gilnahirk, Cavehill v Curran, Malone v PSNI, Cliftonville v Queen's Island, Dungannon v BETS, Shorts v North Down, Hilden v Skerries, Newcastle v Rathfriland, Ballywalter v Bray, Londonderry Park v Dromore, Forth River v Saintfield.
IBA Junior Cup, first round: St James's Gate v Curran B, Portadown B v Larne B, Mossley B v Musgrave B, Whitehead B v Letterkenny B, Willowfield B v Carrickfergus B, 58th Old Boys v Lisnagarvey B, Brookgreen v Forth River B, Cookstown B v Ards B, Banbridge B v Ballycastle, Londonderry Park B v Ballymena C, Dunbarton B v Ballymoney B, Castleton B v Dromore B.