IRISH CUP: Big Two tie is ‘massive’

Linfields Stephen Fallon and Jamie Mulgrew with Glentorans Nacho Novo and Stephen McAlorum as the Big Two derby headlined the Irish Cup fifth round draw. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye
Linfields Stephen Fallon and Jamie Mulgrew with Glentorans Nacho Novo and Stephen McAlorum as the Big Two derby headlined the Irish Cup fifth round draw. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye

The fifth round of the Irish Cup will see a meeting of two midfielders desperate to make up for lost time.

Hands down the tie of the round is the historic Belfast Big Two derby between Glentoran and Linfield at the Oval.

For the Glens’ Stephen McAlorum and Linfield’s Jamie Mulgrew, it’s a match with huge significance.

Neither are strangers to Irish Cup success, McAlorum has lifted the trophy twice and Mulgrew on an astounding six occasions.

McAlorum made his long-awaited first start after almost a year out with a horror injury in Saturday’s draw at Crusaders and he’s keen to get another rattle at his old rivals.

“These are the type of games you want to play in,” he said. “I’ve missed them over the past year when I’ve been out and I’m looking forward to it.

“We’ll give it our all and we’ll see where it can take us. Linfield are a great side. They’ve proven that but on our day, we’re a good side too. We’ll take the game to them and we’ll see how it pans out.”

Both of McAlorum’s cup successes have come in the past four seasons as the trophy has been shared between Glentoran and Glenavon.

Mulgrew, meanwhile, has endured an unfamiliar lean spell as Linfield haven’t won either the league or the Irish Cup since 2012.

They were beaten by Glenavon in last season’s Irish Cup showcase decider and Mulgrew is keen to make amends, starting with the Glens.

“It’s gone on too long, us being trophyless,” he said. “It’s not something that I’ve been used to but we’re determined to change that. We’re in a decent position at the minute and decent form. Football has a funny way of slapping you up the face though. We’re a decent side but we haven’t done anything yet and we know that we can’t get carried away.

“We’ve experienced some disappointment but hopefully that will stand us in good stead to not let it happen again.”

Linfield have lost only once in the last 18 meetings between the teams but Mulgrew doesn’t seem like letting complacency become an issue.

“Form goes out the window,” he said. “It’s a cup game and anything can happen in a Big Two match as well. It’s obviously going to be a massive game for both clubs. We’ve got the one (at Windsor) on Boxing Day first and both teams have other things to concentrate on until then but it’s a big match, there’s no getting away from that.

“Nobody’s going to want to lose it.”

Linfield have won all four of the derby matches since McAlorum’s nightmare injury that saw him tear his cruciate ligament, break a bone in his kneecap and also so cartilage damage.

“Saturday’s just aren’t the same when you’re not involved, no matter what you do,” he said. “You like that buzz of doing your routine. I got that back on Saturday thankfully and I enjoyed every minute of it.

“It was nearly a year to the day since I was injured. It was a bad one but I think in the long run, it will prolong my career and help me. I’m fitter and stronger now than I have been in the last few years and I’m enjoying my football again.”

The Big Two have met in the Irish Cup four times in recent seasons. Glenavon won in 2005 but Linfield got their own back in the final a year later and the Blues also ousted their rivals in 2010 and 2011.