Eddie Patterson insists Glentoran’s Irish Cup final date will be thrust onto the back burner until May 2.
The Glens booked their place in the end-of-season showpiece with last week’s spirited 1-0 win over Crusaders.
It has set up a mouth-watering decider against Portadown, with hopes of a second Irish Cup success in two years firmly on the club’s radar.
Before that, however, lie six crunch Danske Bank Premiership fixtures that could seal Glentoran’s pathway to Europe – starting with Saturday’s home clash with Dungannon Swifts.
The scrap for a top three finish continues to gather pace, with the Glens vying with Portadown and Cliftonville for coveted automatic European qualification spot.
The Irish Cup also offers a Euro gateway, but Patterson has urged his players to complete the mission before they face Portadown on May 2.
“The cup final is put onto the back burner now. The players have to perform between now and May 2,” he said.
“We have six big league games left – six cup finals before the big one.
“It is another chance of qualifying for Europe, and if we can do it that will be brilliant.
“We have two doors open for Europe, but we would love to qualify as soon as we can.
“It keeps everyone on their toes for the next six league games, and they will be playing for their cup final shirts.
“It would be great to secure European qualification before the final. But that door is also open.
“If we had lost against Crusaders last week, we would have had six games to get into Europe and it would have been added pressure.”
Patterson praised his players after booking their spot in the Irish Cup final.
“It means a lot for this team to reach an Irish Cup final. Two years ago when we won the cup we had a lot of experienced players,” he added.
“Then the cuts set in and a lot of those guys had to go.
“But now there is a new crop coming through, and the Irish Cup final will be a day when these lads will mature.
“They have matured already, especially last week against a very strong and physical Crusaders team.
“The boys are buying into what we are trying to do. They are being well coached and the training is enjoyable. The new board are doing their bit off the park.
“If we can get the club on a solid financial footing, and we can get the right players in, then we will progress.
“There is the possibility that we could be challenging for league titles in two or three years’ time.
“We just have to keep building in the right direction.”