GLENN Ferguson believes Ballymena United could not have picked a worse time to play Donegal Celtic.
The Sky Blues are looking to book their place in the County Antrim Shield final with victory over the Wee Hoops on Tuesday.
Ferguson’s side will be favourites to emerge from the Showgrounds tie with victory under their belts.
But the United boss believes the arrival of Pat McAllister as manager of DC has added a new dimension to the clash.
McAllister took charge of Celtic for the first time on Saturday with the West Belfast side claiming a 2-1 win over Glentoran.
The DC revival is firmly under way, but Ferguson hopes his Ballymena side can put an early halt to their rivals’ progress on Tuesday evening.
“Donegal Celtic might just go into this game as favourites. They had a great win at the weekend against a good Glentoran side so they will be lifted by that,” Ferguson said.
“Packie has come in and got the pride back in the shirt. The players must be playing for him and they will be out to impress the new manager.
“It is a bad time to play them because they will be looking to prove a point. The players will want to stake a claim for the shirt and they have a great chance to do that by reaching a cup final.”
Ferguson has urged his players to seize their chance on Tuesday.
“There are only about three or four of our players who have played in a cup final, so this is a massive opportunity for most of them,” he added.
“You don’t get chances like this very often, and you need luck in cups to play in finals.
“But it is up to them to take their chance. If they are not up for it then they shouldn’t be in the game.
“If they don’t approach it in the right manner, prepare for it in the right way and go out and give 110 per cent to get into a final then they’re kidding themselves and they’re kidding me.”
Meanwhile, DC boss McAllister believes reaching a cup final would give the club a “massive lift” as they continue their relegation battle in the Danske Bank Premiership.
Saturday’s win over Glentoran lifted Celtic off the bottom of the table.
“Saturday was a good result and it has given everyone a lift. If we could reach a cup final then it would really generate a buzz around the club,” McAllister added.
“The players can feed off that so we will be all out to do it on Tuesday night.
“It is a great opportunity but we have to take it.”