Dungannon Swifts boss Rodney McAree using Mid-Ulster Cup final as opportunity for rotation but strong desire to lift trophy against Portadown remains

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While Dungannon Swifts boss Rodney McAree will look to rotate personnel in tonight’s Mid-Ulster Cup final against Portadown at Shamrock Park, it doesn’t diminish his desire to win the competition once again.

McAree was Darren Murphy’s assistant manager when the County Tyrone outfit won three consecutive Mid-Ulster Cup crowns between 2012/13 and 2014/15 before lifting it in his first season back in the Swifts dugout the following year with a 2-1 triumph over Armagh City.

Dungannon have reigned supreme 10 times in total and were beaten finalists on home turf last season under Dean Shiels after losing out 2-0 to Newry City.

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They’ve enjoyed solid cup success this term by reaching the BetMcLean Cup semi-finals before losing out to Linfield and will take on Ballyclare Comrades in their Irish Cup sixth-round clash next month.

Dungannon Swifts manager Rodney McAree. PIC: INPHO/Philip MagowanDungannon Swifts manager Rodney McAree. PIC: INPHO/Philip Magowan
Dungannon Swifts manager Rodney McAree. PIC: INPHO/Philip Magowan

That is being balanced alongside a bid to challenge for a Sports Direct Premiership top-six spot against Carrick Rangers, Coleraine, Glenavon and Loughgall, with Dungannon currently sitting six points adrift of Stuart King’s side.

While finishing as high as possible in the league remains their priority, McAree is still determined to defeat derby rivals Portadown.

"It's an opportunity to rotate and give people minutes who have badly been needing minutes,” he said. “It's an opportunity for us to win a cup and we want to win it.

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"But our priority at this moment in time has to be the league.

"It's our next match and we want to win it.

"We're fortunate because we know if we freshen the team up and make changes we're bringing in good players.

"It's not like we're going to be weakening the team too much.

"It gives us an opportunity to have a look at others and people will get minutes in their legs.

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"It's a Mid-Ulster derby and we're only 16 miles apart from Portadown.

"So we don't want to go into it with a feeling that we're not overly bothered by winning it, because we do want to win it.

"We want to beat Portadown.

"And if we can get a win in the middle of those games (a weekend defeat to Larne and this weekend’s league trip to Linfield) it gives everyone around the ground a bit of a boost and lift.

"That's a priority for us and we have to go into it with a mindset that we want to win it."

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McAree has brought in striker Andrew Mitchell from Coleraine and goalkeeper Alex Henderson on loan from former club Glentoran during this transfer window, but lost vice-captain Ethan McGee to Linfield.

If the right opportunity arises before January ends, the Swifts could look to do business.

But McAree admits the market has changed in some aspects over recent years.

“There's more money in it and if you go to sign anybody they don't want to give you anybody for nothing,” he added at last week’s Co Antrim Shield final press day. “There's always money spoken about.

"And we're a club that doesn't have money.

"So maybe we have to look for loans or be a club that has to beg, swap or do something.

"There's 10 days left in the window so we'll see what comes from that."