Ballymena’s Jim Ervin aiming to guide Sky Blues to victory over Larne

Ballymena captain Jim Ervin.
Ballymena captain Jim Ervin.

Defender Jim Ervin knows a thing or two about picking up trophies.

The Ballymena United skipper will be hoping to take a step closer of adding to his collection when his team face Larne in the Toals County Antrim Shield semi final at Inver Park, although the game is subject to a pitch inspection on Tuesday morning after recent heavy rain.

Ervin, a multiple title and Irish Cup winner in his nine years at Linfield, has already appeared in two finals in the Sky Blue of Ballymena, but is still craving his first success.

“We lost to Glenavon in the Irish Cup final two years ago and we were beaten by Cliftonville in the League Cup last season, so it would be nice to get those memories erased,” he said. “We see this as a great chance of reaching another final.

“It’s a local derby, we’ll be up for it. Larne may be a Championship side, but we’ll be giving them our respect. We played them in a pre-season game down there. I know it’s a totally different scenario, but we know what to expect. We know we’ll have to be on our game to get anything from it.”

“It’s a tight little ground down there and I know David McAlinden will have his team well drilled. Form usually goes out of the window in local derbies. But it’s a semi final, no motivation is required.”

United were narrowly edged out by Premiership champions Crusaders at the weekend and Ervin admits his team will require the same determination and commitment at Inver Park.

“We’ve developed into a decent cup team,” added Ervin. “It’s been a bit frustrating and we’ve spoken about it, but we need to turn that form into our league games.

“There is a very fine line between where we are at the minute in the league table to where we could be potentially.”

“There wasn’t a great deal between the teams at Seaview on Saturday. We were unlucky not to get three points against Portadown last week - it was the same the week before against Glentoran.

“Those are the hard luck stories we have been having, but the margins between most teams are very fine. We must start turning them into positive results.

“We, as a group of players and coaches, must sit down and work out how we overcome that. I fully believe we can do that and I fully believe we can climb higher up the table. The league table doesn’t lie. We’ve been a long way off over the past few years, but to offset that disappointment, we now have the chance to move a little closer to picking up a trophy; it’s one we must grasp with both hands.”

It will be Larne’s biggest game since they lost to Bangor in the 2011 Steel Cup final.

Manager Davy McAlinden insists his boys can’t wait for it.

“It’s been a few years since Larne were last in a senior semi-final, so it’s a massive game for us and the town,” he said.

“We have great belief in the squad. We’ve proved before we can mix it with Premiership teams. We were unlucky to lose to Portadown in the League Cup.

“Over 90 minutes, I think we were the better team. If we work really hard and do the things that we’re good at then we’ll not be too far away.”