Crusaders defender Paul Leeman knows a thing or two about negotiating Irish Cup semi-finals.
The 36-year-old has four winner’s medals safely locked away, but incredibly the last of those was draped around his neck 10 years ago, when wearing the red, green and black of Glentoran.
When ‘Leeper’, as he is affectionately known, troops out against Glenavon at Windsor Park on Saturday, he’ll require little motivation – he wants to add to his already impressive array of honours.
“It’s amazing to think that it’s 10 years since the Glens defeated Coleraine.Michael Halliday scored the winner,” he recalls. “It’s been too long.
“I’ve also been beaten in a few finals, but few people never remember the runners-up.
“Irish Cup finals are a fantastic day out. I’ve been telling the guys in our dressing room who have never sampled the experience – there is no better feeling.
“But it’s still a long way off. We’ll not be thinking about the final – our full focus on on the semi final against a team that is probably the most improved in the league.
“Glenavon have had a fantastic season, claiming a top six place in the league and reaching the Irish Cup semi final – Gary Hamilton had done a tremendous job.”
Leeman, who has been one of the most consistent performers in a red and black shirt this term, insists the Shore Road boys will have a ‘blinkered approach’ to the game.
“To be honest, we’ll be concentrating on what we must do to claim a place in the final,” he adds.
“We had a great start season, going 25 games unbeaten only for our league challenge to be blown off course around the Festive period.
“Don’t forget we still reached the finals of the League Cup and the County Antrim Shield – we were beaten in both (by Cliftonville and Linfield) on a penalty shootout.
“If we can nail down third place in the table over the next four league games and manage to win the Irish Cup, it would be a fantastic season.”