Jim Ervin is hoping to rewrite Ballymena’s cup history

Jim Ervin (right) and former Linfield teammate Peter Thompson with the Irish Cup in 2012
Jim Ervin (right) and former Linfield teammate Peter Thompson with the Irish Cup in 2012

Jim Ervin believes Ballymena United deserve to dream of Irish Cup glory this season – with this year’s competition appearing wide open.

A number of big hitters have already been dumped out of the cup, including Cliftonville, Linfield and Portadown.

Crusaders – who play Ballyclare Comrades in the quarter-finals – are the bookmakers’ favourites.

Holders Glentoran also feature prominently at the head of the betting, with Ballymena installed as third favourites ahead of Saturday’s quarter-final clash with Dungannon Swifts.

Ervin – who joined the Sky Blues from Linfield in January – admits the cup is there for the taking.

And he believes Ballymena are more than up for the challenge.

“We shouldn’t fear anyone in the cup,” he said.

“Our target remains to finish in the top-six of the league, but we also want to progress in the cup.

“The competition is very open this year. The likes of Linfield and Cliftonville are out, so everyone will fancy their chances.

“We have already beaten Linfield in the cup. Nobody gave us a chance in the last round at Windsor, but we won and now we have a quarter-final to look forward.

“We don’t want our cup run to end here, we want to advance further.”

Ervin admits he only recently became aware of Ballymena’s Irish Cup history.

You have to date back to 1989 to unearth the club’s last success – courtesy of a 1-0 win over Larne at the Oval.

One member of that iconic Sky Blues side was goalkeeper Damien Grant, who works with Ervin at a car parts company in Dunmurry.

Ervin admits Grant has been reminding him of that halcyon day 25 years ago, and what it would mean for Ballymena’s fans if they repeated the dose in 2014.

“Damien has reminded me of that 1989 Irish Cup win quite a bit since I joined Ballymena,” Ervin added.

“When I first signed for the club, he told me what it was like winning the Irish Cup in ‘89 and what it meant to the fans.

“Damien was a big player for Ballymena in that cup run and by all accounts he was superb in the semi-final.

“A quarter of a century is a long time to go without winning the Irish Cup. I didn’t know until recently that 1989 was the last time Ballymena had lifted the trophy.

“There’s actually a photograph of that team with the cup above our changing room door at the Showgrounds.

“It is a huge incentive. Damien has also reinforced to me what it would be like to lift the cup with United. It has made me extra determined to follow in his footsteps.”

Elsewhere on Saturday Crusaders entertain Ballyclare at Seaview, while underdogs Queen’s University host Bangor at The Dub in another quarter-final tie.

At Ferney Park Ballinamallard United and Glenavon will play a rescheduled sixth round tie.

The game has already been postponed twice due to the weather, and last week was abandoned before half-time due to a waterlogged pitch.

Also on Saturday Glentoran face Armagh City in a sixth round replay at the Oval.

The two sides fought out a 1-1 draw at Holm Park on February 8 – the replay has already been postponed once.

The winners of the Glentoran v Armagh and Mallards v Glenavon games will meet in the quarter-finals.