COLERAINE will be hoping for Irish Cup success for the sixth time as they take on Cliftonville at the National Stadium (KO 2:30pm)…
The Bannsiders fell short in their quest for the Gibson Cup last weekend as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Glenavon. That result – coupled with Crusaders’ 2-1 win over Ballymena – meant Stephen Baxter’s side clinched the title by two points. As for the Reds, they ended their league campaign with a 2-1 win against Linfield, meaning they finished 5th in the Danske Bank Premiership.
The fixture will be the fifth meeting between the two sides this season and the Bannsiders have had the upper-hand so far. In August, goals from Jamie McGonigle and Josh Carson were the catalyst in a 2-0 win, before Joe McCready’s second-half winner earned all three points in October. The third fixture in December was dominated by the Reds, but Coleraine held firm to earn a share of the spoils at Solitude. A few weeks ago, Coleraine came from behind to defeat Cliftonville courtesy of a late penalty from McGonigle.
The Stripes have reached the final after first defeating Lisburn Distillery at The Showgrounds, before Institute were put to the sword on the Ballycastle Road. The quarter-final fixture at home to Glentoran was a tight affair as Darren McCauley’s effort separated the two sides as the Bannsiders weathered a second-half onslaught from the visitors. The semi-final against Larne was goalless at the break, but Lyndon Kane edged Coleraine ahead with a speculative effort. After David McDaid equalised for the Championship outfit, the Bannsiders seized control and added goals from Gareth McConaghie and Josh Carson (pen). Barry Gray’s side have had a difficult route to the final that started with an extra-time win over Warrenpoint Town, which was followed up with a win over rivals Crusaders. Holders Linfield were defeated in the quarter-final, before a dominant Cliftonville beat Loughgall in the semi-final.
Coleraine boss Oran Kearney will be without the services of Lyndon Kane and James McLaughlin through injury. Furthermore Josh Carson must sit out through suspension. However the Bannsiders will welcome the return of Eoin Bradley after the striker missed the match against Glenavon after accumulating five yellow cards. The manager hopes that his squad can use the disappointment of losing out on league honours to inspire them to Irish Cup glory.
“I’m in football long enough to know it’s the most ruthless sport to be involved in,” Kearney said.
“I’ve had some well-wishing messages since Saturday, but you don’t get what you deserve in this sport, nothing is handed to you on a plate.
“We won’t be going out on Saturday with our lip out or feeling sorry for ourselves, and we’re not heading out thinking that because of our performances over the last couple of months that the world owes us a living and it will hand us the cup.
“We know we need to be on full throttle on Saturday to get us a result and win the cup.”