There will be no lack of intensity says Coleraine captain Stephen O'Donnell

Coleraine captain Stephen O'DonnellColeraine captain Stephen O'Donnell
Coleraine captain Stephen O'Donnell
Derby encounters between Coleraine and Ballymena United in recent years have been real blood and thunder affairs.

Sending offs, end-to-end action and plenty of goals have been the order of the day, with no quarter asked or given.

The coronavirus pandemic may have robbed of us a bumper crowd and an electric atmosphere.

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But Coleraine skipper Stephen O’Donnell feels there will be no lack of intensity on the pitch as the two old rivals battle for a place in the Irish Cup final.

“A few of the early games in England were maybe a bit pedestrian but I think it will be a bit different on Monday,” said O’Donnell.

“Not only is it a derby clash but there’s the carrot of an Irish Cup final there too.

“There will be a real will to win and you will see it in the tackles and the competitiveness between the sides.

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“It might be a bit stop-start as this will be the first competitive game back for the sides, but the intensity will be there in my opinion.

“Our boys have done really well in training and have worked so hard, they will be up for this game that’s for sure.

“For me it will be a typical blood and thunder Irish League encounter with players giving their all to try and win a game for their team.

“I’ve no doubt the buzz will be there.

“There’s no better game to be back for than an Irish Cup semi-final against your derby rivals.

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“It’s going to be a bit different as an occasion with no fans there, but I can assure you there intensity will be there for the players.

“Not only do you want to win any derby match you play in, but there’s the added incentive of getting into an Irish Cup final for us all.

“Yes we would all have loved to be playing in front of a packed house as it would have made for a wonderful spectacle.

“Our fans have been brilliant for us all season whether it be home or away, and I know they will be disappointed not to be able to be there in person, but we as a team know they will be behind us 100 per cent and that will spur us on to get to another final.

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“Our focus will solely be on Monday’s game though, as it has been since the first minute we got back together as a group.

“We know what we have to do and we will be doing all we can to make sure we win the game.

“We just can’t wait for the game now.”

The Bannsiders are hoping to add to the BetMcLean League Cup which they won earlier this season.

It has been a remarkable turnaround for the Showgrounds side after a disappointing campaign last time out.

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“The passion and desire is certainly right up there with the lads and we have maintained that over the course of this season,” said O’Donnell.

“There has been so many good performances this year and things certainly seem to be on an upward trajectory.

“The key thing is keeping the squad together and building on what we have achieved to date.

“Hopefully that will see us bringing more success to the club.

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“It’s important to take everything as it comes though and Monday’s game is the next big challenge for us.”

It has been a good week for die-hard Leeds United fan O’Donnell and he had special praise for Irish League old boy Stuart Dallas.

“He’s a great example for young players here,” he said.

“Stuart started at Coagh then on to the Crues and he’s now a Premier League player!

“He is the epitome of what can be achieved if you use your talent and work hard.

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"It's great to see Stuart and boys like Gavin Whyte, Mark Sykes, Brad Lyons and now Joel Cooper make that move.

"As I say if you work hard you can achieve anything!"

As for celebrating Leeds' return to the Premier League O'Donnell said: "I have a date in my diary booked for a proper celebration with my dad!"

Who knows he may have something else to celebrate when that time comes!


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