Colin Malone’s Lurgan Celtic will go into the biggest game in the club’s history without a goalkeeper!
The Hoops travel to meet Linfield in the semi final of the Tennent’s Irish Cup at Windsor Park on Saturday, with a make-shift out-field between the posts.
Number one shot stopper Conor McCorry must sit out a one game ban, having been dismissed in last week’s Championship One game against Annagh United.
McCorry’s back-up, Jamie McAtavey is also out with a broken wrist.
Malone had hoped to hastily rearrange an outstanding league game with Larne this week and, even though the East Antrim club agreed to the request, NIFL Championship chairman Colin Russell scuppered the idea - a decision that left the Celtic chief fuming.
“Larne sportingly agreed to play on us on either Wednesday or Thursday which would have meant that McCorry’s would be free to play in the semi final,” said Malone.
“The game was given the go-ahead by NIFL, but they then went back on the decision, stating we would be fielding a ‘weakened’ team, and giving an unfair advantage to Larne. What I would like to know is how did they know what team I was putting out?
“Even though the cup semi final is only a few days away, at no time did we indicate that we would be sending out a weakened side. We are sitting in third place in the league, we need all the points we can get.
“This is a total joke. Regardless of any proposals we put forward - we have been shot down every time. To be honest, I don’t think they want us in the competition.
“Right from the outset, we have been treated poorly. We were drawn to play the Blues on Friday night - it was changed to Saturday. The IFA arranged a Press conference last week. It was cancelled at the last minutes, but on one informed me. We were the only ones to turn up.
“I then asked the IFA if we could train at Windsor Park, which they nowcall the National Stadium. They turned us down. As some of our boys have never been there before, I then asked if we could visit the stadium, just to walk around it. The IFA replied ‘no it’s still a building site’.
“Just to get a feel of the place, I took 20 players and six staff to the Linfield v Ballinamallard United game last week -- costing me £260 to purchase the tickets. As Irish Cup semi-finalists, we have been treated really shabbily.”
Malone last night took charge of his last training session before the game, still pondering what player will be between the posts.
“We’ll go into the biggest game in the club’s history without a recognised goalkeeper, which is a farce,” he added. “I even suggested a quick loan signing, but was also shot down with that proposal. Colin Russell is the chairman of the Championship, but he dismissed everything we suggested.
“In the end, we just gave up . . . they wore us down. Some of our committee suggested we play 11 outfield players and no one in goals, but that will put a stain on the tournament and be disrespectful of the sponsors.
“Linfield are formidable opponents at the best of times. . . they are in the running for a league and cup double. We were always going into the game as big underdogs, which suited us in many ways.
“But shocks can happen, as we proved against Portadown in the quarter finals. We were given no chance . . . look what happened. We were awarded a penalty in the last minute to win the game. On the down side, it meant the end for long serving Portadown boss Ronnie McFall, who quit afterwards.”