Eddie Patterson is ready for Irish Cup acid test at Mourneview Park

Crusaders have held the upper hand over Glentoran in recent times
Crusaders have held the upper hand over Glentoran in recent times

Glentoran manager Eddie Patterson admits his side are facing up to an Irish Cup acid test on Saturday.

The Glens – who have beaten Ards, Armagh City and Dungannon Swifts en route to the semi-finals – meet Premiership leaders Crusaders in a massive last-four clash at Mourneview Park (3pm kick-off).

The Crues have blazed a trail this season to sit on the cusp of an historic double as the business end of the campaign approaches.

Stephen Baxter’s side are six points clear at the top of the Premiership and are odds-on favourites to see off Glentoran in Lurgan.

Patterson – whose side are rated 3/1 underdogs – is under no illusions as he prepares for the crunch showdown.

“The semi-final is a massive game for us. We are playing the potential league champions and we will be underdogs,” he said.

“But it is a cup game and anything can happen. We have only beaten them once in the league in the past three years or so, but that record has to improve sometime.

“We will be up for it. We are definite underdogs, it is how the players respond to that.

“We are fifth in the table, they are running away with the league and are flying at present. But this is a one-off game, and it is whoever turns up on the day.

“Both clubs have cup pedigree, so we can’t wait.

“It is a new ball game for a lot of our players. We have had a lot of changes since winning the cup two years ago.”

Glentoran remain focused on qualifying for Europe this season.

Winning the Irish Cup brings automatic qualification, while a top three finish in the Premiership will also see them qualify.

If Crusaders go on to lift the title and the Irish Cup, then the top four sides in the Premiership will secure their spot in Europe.

“At this moment in time we have two doors to Europe. The Irish Cup is a big opportunity for us, and we have the league too,” Patterson added.

“If Crusaders beat us on Saturday, and go on to win the double, then Europe will go to the top four sides in the Premiership.

“It is important that there are two chances to secure European football, but we are focused on winning on Saturday.

“It is a massive game for us. The last time we won the cup in 2013 we had a lot of experienced players. We have since lost that experience, and we have a new set of younger players.

“We are progressing for the future, and if we can keep everyone together then we will have a very good team in two or three years’ time.

“This season has been difficult enough in blending them all in, but they have come up trumps. There has been inconsistency, but that is natural with a young squad.

“They are learning, and I don’t think anyone would have predicted this Glentoran team challenging for Europe. So credit to the boys.

“They have given it all over the course of the season, and we now have seven cup finals left.”

Midfielder Fra McCaffrey believes Glentoran’s team ethos will stand them in good stead.

“Everyone gets behind the team, whether they are playing on the sidelines,” he said.

“I was suspended earlier in the season and lost my spot, and the players in the starting XI were all performing.

“You just have to support the lads on the pitch and hopefully take your chance when it comes along.

“But there is a great team spirit at the club and everyone is ready to fight for each other.”