Craig McClean refusing to get carried away with season as Crues target big finish

Glentoran goalkeeper Elliott Morris and Crusaders defender Craig McClean
Glentoran goalkeeper Elliott Morris and Crusaders defender Craig McClean

Crusaders may be sitting on the cusp of a special double this season, but defender Craig McClean is keeping his cards close to his chest.

The Crues sit six points clear at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership as they target a first title in 18 years.

They are also into the semi-finals of the Irish Cup, with Glentoran standing between McClean and a place in May’s showpiece.

The two Belfast clubs will lock horns at Mourneview Park on Saturday (3pm) to decide who will progress to meet either Ballymena United or Portadown in the final.

McClean admits the Premiership remains Crusaders’ main target, but the Irish Cup is another trophy on the Seaview club’s radar – even if they aren’t admitting it.

“The double is still there, but we don’t talk about it,” the defender said.

“I think the overriding factor is the hunger and motivation, and if anyone in the changing room mentions the double, then they are using it as a motivational tool.

“Nobody is thinking we have any right to win the league title, let alone the double. It will take hard work to get there.

“So we only talk about the title to motivate ourselves.

“The league is our main focus. We want to get our hands on the Gibson Cup.

“We have been focused on the title race, but now we turn our attention to the Irish Cup.

“We are hungry and we want to reach a cup final. It is the biggest day of the local calendar and we want to be playing in it.

“We are just taking it one game at a time. There is hunger in the squad, and we are determined to get over the line.

“We are in a good position, but it can all change so quickly. So we have to stay focused on what we have to do.”

Crusaders are favourites to see off 2013 Irish Cup champions Glentoran.

But McClean is refusing to take anything for granted ahead of Saturday’s showdown in Lurgan.

“We are looking forward to this game. It is going to be a tough test,” McClean added.

“People might be saying we are big favourites, but I don’t buy into that. Maybe they look at the league table and draw their conclusions from that, but this is a one-off game.

“Anyone can beat anyone else in the Premiership on their day, so we know Saturday’s game can go either way. We will prepare professionally and give it our best shot.

“Hopefully we can get the win to take us to the final.”

Two players who could hold the key to Crusaders’ potential success are livewire wingers Paul Heatley and Gavin Whyte.

The duo have tormented defences throughout the season, and McClean admits it is a joy to behold when the pair are in full flight.

“In my opinion, I think Paul and Gavin are the best two wingers in the league, and Heatley is the best player in the league,” McClean added.

“When games are tight, both those players can produce some magic. Gavin is a young Paul Heatley – they are exciting to watch and exciting to play with. Hopefully they can take us to the league and the Irish Cup.”