IRISH CUP: Cliftonville boss Barry Gray looks to keep his Reds on Cup adventure

Cliftonville boss Barry Gray
Cliftonville boss Barry Gray

Cliftonville manager Barry Gray is hoping his side can do something that the Reds haven’t done in years and win the Irish Cup.

It has been a long time since the men from the Cliftonville Road got their hands on the Irish Cup in 1979 and Gray says he knows how much it would mean to the supporters to bring the Cup back to Solitude.

“It goes without saying. Every manager who is still in the competition will say the same. ‘You are in it, to win it.’

“But is a taboo topic at the club and for the fans. I keep getting reminded about the last time we won and I have heard all the negative stats between then and now.

“I think it would be something very special for Cliftonville to be involved in.

“But at the minute it is one game at a time and we have to get past Crusaders which is going to be a massive hurdle and that is all we are focusing on at this minute in time.”

And Gray insists he is looking forward to the Irish Cup sixth round clash at Seaview but he wishes it could have been a wee bit easier.

“I would rather have been getting a junior club or opposition,” laughed Gray,

“No listen it will be a great game and one of those games when there has been lots of talk about previous form and there is always an edge about these games and everyone is looking forward to it.

“But we have had a busy few weeks leading up to this game and now it is just a case of getting on with it.”

The Reds last two games have ended in 6-4 defeat to Ballinamallard United and a 1-1 draw with Glenavon.

And Gray says he believes his side will produce a performance against their north Belfast rivals.

“I think the result against Ballinamallard speaks for itself and the Glenavon game on Monday night when maybe we were hot and cold for patches of it.

“I don’t think response is the right phrase to use.

“But we will be looking to take the next step in it.

“We will be looking to move on and it would be realistic to say some of our past performances have not been good enough to beat teams like Crusaders.

“So it is all about can we get up to the next shelf or level?

“If we do that we will give ourselves a chance of wining the game.”

And Gray believes Crusaders defeat to Dungannon Swifts in the Bet McLean League Cup semi-final on Tuesday night will have no baring on tomorrow’s Irish Cup clash.

“Stephen Baxter will not need me to tell him what to do. When you go on a very long unbeaten run like they had it has to come to an end at some stage.

“The bubble will pop and it will be taken off you but I don’t think it will play a massive part in Saturday’s game.

“I expect Crusaders to be massively, massively motivated because it is an Irish Cup game and a North Belfast derby.

“So I don’think losing to Dungannon and their unbeaten run ending will not effect what we will get from Crusaders on Saturday.”

And Crusaders boss Baxter knows his side will have to come firing on all cylinders against their North Belfast rivals and admits all the game are coming thick and fast at the minute.

“We are aware of the big games ahead, including the Cliftonville one in the Irish Cup on Saturday.

Then we have Carrick again on the Tuesday night. It’s a daunting programme for all the teams.

“From our point of view we have a capable squad and we’ve got to keep working hard and navigate our way through games.

Occasionally I can see tired legs and it’s my job to juggle the squad as best I can.

“Cliftonville will be a tough game but we are looking forward to it. It will be a competitive clash btween two good sides.”