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Skipper targeting winning week

STEPHEN O’Donnell insists the Bannsiders have been handed their toughest fifth round tie in some time as they face Loughgall tomorrow afternoon…

The Stripes host the Championship leaders as Dean Smith’s side lead the way in the bid for promotion to the top flight.

That is not lost on O’Donnell who knows the Bannsiders can’t afford to take their counterparts lightly as they target a spot in the next round.

“For a club like ourselves the cups are a big chance,” he said.

“You’re four wins away from a final and a big day out.

“The Irish Cup is special to Coleraine, we’ve had some good memories and some disappointing ones in recent years.

“Saturday will be the toughest fifth round tie we’ve had in a long time.

“Loughgall are flying at the top of the Championship, and when you’re playing well and scoring goals you fancy yourself against anybody.

“They’ll not fear us to come and play on a good pitch, they will be full of beans and full of confidence.

“As I say it’s as tough as we can get especially coming into a three-game week, we want three wins so there’s no chance we will be taking them lightly.

“We have to do the business and hopefully get into the next round.”

There will be a familiar face making a return to the north coast as Nedas Maciulaitis is now on the books at Loughgall.

The striker’s form and pedigree is well known by O’Donnell who knows it is important to cut the supply chain to the marksman.

“He will give Loughgall a threat,” he added.

“Nedas is a good player, we’ve obviously seen him up close and personal.

“He’s got ability, he can run in behind, he can drop the shoulder and he’s got a trick in his locker as well.

“He’s scored a lot of goals over the last couple of seasons and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was to get a move in this window or the next.

“For us on Saturday it will be about trying to contain him and stop the supply to him.

“If you’re caught one-on-one with him you’re not where you would want to be.

“But if you can contain him and have bodies around you it can make a difference.”

Coleraine come into the fixture after starting 2023 with a scoreless draw away to Linfield.

That result marked a seventh consecutive clean sheet in the Danske Bank Premiership and O’Donnell was full of praise for Martin Gallagher who deputised between the sticks.

“A lot of people don’t see the work which goes on behind the scenes,” he stressed.

“Marty looks after himself really well and he’s always on the ball.

“We’re one of the fortunate teams in the league in that we have two really, really good goalkeepers who are challenging to be number one.

“Whoever plays it doesn’t weaken us.

“Marty showed that against Linfield, I thought he was brilliant and he made two brilliant saves, but he was also really composed on the ball.

“He sent one of their players to the shop for a bag of crisps with that turn in the box.

“I’m delighted for him. I thought he was fantastic.”